In this issue:
disaster strikes, will I be ready?
This article is not
technical. It is intended to get everyone
asking this question: "When disaster
strikes, will I be ready?" It does not
matter how lucky you think you are.
Eventually, some sort of calamity will
befall your business. While you may be able
to recover from that disaster without a
plan, having one will make it less painful.
While it is more dramatic to talk about
"disaster recovery," that term is rather
limited. Instead, you want to focus on
"business continuity," or what it takes for
the business to continue operating under
normal and adverse situations.
Business continuity is
not just about products because products
alone won't get you to where you want
to be. Your management needs to have goals
in mind and needs to set up appropriate
policies, procedures, standards,
expectations, training programs, and
notifications to meetthese goals. Management
also must provide for outside support where
it is appropriate.
Unfortunately, people tend to purchase
products, but then not pursue these other
steps to ensure success. There are few magic
pills in life. Simply buying a product will
not save you from a disaster. Seat belts
save lives, but only if people use them
Iron Horse has always
been interested in disaster prevention, the
best form of business continuity planning.
Once a true disaster occurs, it is often too
late to help. Businesses that experience a
significant data disaster will lose a lot of
money and some will never reopen. Preparing
for a disaster with backups isn't the
answer. Instead, we should focus on what is
really needed: reliable, accurate, and rapid
restoration of the capability to do
Instead of calling it
backup, we should call it restore. You can
have the best backup software in the world,
but you also need to know the business value
of the information you are trying to protect
(policy). It will determine to what lengths
you will go to protect it. You need to
protect your information with reliable
software, but you also need to constantly
monitor backup results and attempt periodic
restoration to make sure the process works
(procedures). You will have to have some
idea of what is acceptable and unacceptable
(standards). Everyone will need to know what
to expect in the case of a restoration
(expectation and notification). Everyone
involved will need appropriate training that
involves the software, hardware, and
procedures. Finally, you will need to know
where to find help if your internal
resources can't handle the problem
At Iron Horse, we
recently had an object lesson in how you
can't buy a pill for a disaster. I went in
for a simple operation 12/27/07. A few days
later, while at home recovering, I suffered
complications and was admitted to the
hospital. Iron Horse went from experiencing
some expected and planned
for downtime to unexpected loss of its
President for an extended period.
We tried to keep client
and business disruption to a minimum, but
there was disruption. Business continuity
plans should assume there will be some pain.
If your business continuity plan comes into
play, your business isn't operating
normally. Don't expect things to run
smoothly, and don't
expect that you can plan for all
contingencies. Business continuity planning
helps keep the pain manageable.
Fortunately, I had my
colleagues at Iron Horse to step in to
handle the workload while I was out.
Projects had to be canceled or postponed.
Items that required my personal attention or
response had to wait. I had no access to the
Internet or my computer in the hospital.
However, I was available to answer key
questions from my staff, the most important
of which was, "How do we get paid and how do
we pay others?" That answer was fairly
simple, I had previously arranged for
someone else to access the payroll
processing system and to sign corporate
checks. Our business continuity plan worked,
but not as smoothly as it could have.
Business continuity planning is an ongoing
exercise. As your business changes or you
test the plan, you will see how it needs to
This brings up a couple
of key points in business continuity
planning. You need to know what is most
important in your business and that ALWAYS
involves the health, morale, security, and
support systems for your people (policy).
You need to make sure that their
needs are met or the
disaster will worsen. You not only need
backup plans, but people who know what to do
with those plans when disaster strikes
(procedures). You need to take the time to
reassure everyone and explain to them what
their role is (notification). You need to
expand your notifications
to those outside the company as well.
Hopefully, you should be able to give them a
target time when you will return to
operations, but you should also give them an
idea of how your situation will specifically
effect them (expectations). You need to
prioritize and place the greatest needs
first (policy and standards). And, you may
need the help of someone outside of the
business to handle some recovery tasks
Iron Horse is only now
starting to return to more normal
operations. That is because AFTER a
disaster, there is a recovery period. You
not only need to recover from the disaster
itself, but from the backlog of things you
had in process and the new things that have
since. Disasters have a
frustratingly long tail.
you survive any of the following?
outage that lasts for two weeks.
customer defaulting on a debt equal to
10% of your gross income for the whole
Loss of a
key employee for a week or more.
preventing all your employees from
reaching the office.
fluctuation taking out half of your
day power outage.
service attacks against your e mail
servers, web servers, and firewalls.
A flood in
your server room.
wires by an electrician that destroyed
At Iron Horse, we have survived all this and
more over the last few years. That doesn't
mean it was easy.
Do you think your
business continuity efforts are up to snuff?
Or could you use some help in planning for
the worst? If so, contact us at Iron Horse.
You can be sure we will lend a sympathetic
you are interested in learning more about
restoring your office's critical data after
a disaster, e mail me at email@example.com
and ask for our FREE report "Little
Known Facts About Data Backup" and tell
me if you have a specific problem in mind
that you are trying to solve.
Tony Stirk, Iron Horse firstname.lastname@example.org