Disaster plans not about the IT

NETWORK Disaster recovery planning (DRPs) - or the new, politically correct terminology Business Continuity Plans (BCP) - are no longer being left to the IT department.

Information Technology has crept into most corners of business functions and the need to make contingency plans in case of a computer disaster or major disruptions to the business systems now need to be a vital part of a total corporate strategy.

While an environmental disaster does not seem too likely for a business located on the Gold Coast (despite the number of times in the past 100 years that we have been under water), most business disaster rectifications Neteffects has attended are related to simple causes such as burst water pipes, fires or theft or in the CBD, wayward excavators finding pipes or phone lines under the street.

In more than 12 years of providing these rectification services, we are yet to come across a company that has a formalised BCP prior to experiencing its first disaster.

In most cases, the scenario on arrival is remarkably similar - a director or owner coming to terms with the fact that this is costing thousands of dollars a day/hour and he may never see the accounting system again; a management team rushing a BCP plan into existence; and a stressed IT department taking direction from many sides who have differing ideas on priorities.

A small amount of pre-event thought and documentation can provide a wealth of assistance in times of crisis.

The documentation should cover the following areas:

Identify who is responsible for
disaster management.

Identify systems that are critical to key business functions and give them priority.

Test the plan and include staff training.

Don't rely solely on a single backup solution. (It won't help your phones)

Keep it simple - Don't over-document procedures

Frequently review the plan.

In relation to DR management, there are four steps to mitigating risk. These are to identify, analyse, evaluate and treat.

Perhaps two subtle differences between Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity are the higher importance placed on mitigating existing risks to the business and having alternative systems in place as part of the BCP. For example, try walking into your local bank to pay all your staff manually without being able to reference your employee database or accounting system. You never know - your bank may be helpful.

* W

arren Chapman is a Master Certified Novel Engineer, Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and *Cisco Certified Network Engineer

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