Can Your Business and Your Career Survive Another Event Like IKE?

Wow!  What an eventful weekend!  By now, if you are like me, you are cleaning up the debris left behind from Ike’s path through the US.  Ike’s effects are far reaching and not just isolated to the coastal areas of the US.  This became readily apparent to me as he spun his path through the Midwest on Sunday.  The effects were dramatic and direct; impacting my family and many of my friends, clients, and business associates.  To say the least, Ike left us with a series of events, challenges, and opportunities for improvement in the technology space.

Bear with me a bit…  It is Monday evening and in sleepy little Cincinnati, Ohio, we still have significant portions of the geography without power and services.  Nearly 600,000 are still without power.  A large number of schools and business are going to be closed for the second day and counting because they cannot serve their customers.  If you have planned appropriately, or, you are lucky enough to be a tenant in a facility that has standby power generation, chances are that you have been able to conduct business today.  If not, there is no clear timeline as to where and when services will be restored.  Crews from various local governments, public service agencies, and utility companies have been working throughout the night and will continue to work throughout the week to restore services. 

The impact on business has been significant enough that the Cincinnati USA Chamber has opened up its offices in downtown Cincinnati to assist its members with temporary office space and use of land-line telephone service.  Considering that a significant number of its membership are comprised of small/medium businesses; this is a most gracious offering and grand undertaking, but a one-time opportunity, not one than can be expected in every event.  This also reinforces the fact that every business, no matter how large or small needs to have some sort of a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan.

I’m not suggesting that every business needs a plan that delivers five nines.  For most, the cost may outweigh the benefit.  Where lives are at stake, say in a hospital or medical treatment facility, there is no question that clean, uninterrupted power and continuous operation is the only acceptable standard.  However, what I am suggesting is that if you don’t have a basic contingency plan to continue to operate during a localized, regional, or national event, your business is at risk and your career as an IT professional may be short-lived.  I’d like to offer up a few things to think about as you consider your own environment:

  • Planning now is essential to long-term business health

  • Communications is key with all stakeholders

  • If your primary office(s) are unavailable, how do you provide remote/telework services and basic telephone communications on a temporary basis for essential/key personnel?

  • Identify critical business functions and ensure remote worker back-up capability for those functions where appropriate.

  • Review and expand existing Business Continuity plans to include landscape of threats (Inside, outside, pandemic/health, etc.)

  • Develop planning phases with trigger points

  • Build escalating scenarios and perform simulation exercises to identify gaps.  DR tests/exercises are critical functions!

  • Processes and policies must be tailored to the needs of individual business units.

  • Establish RTO with stakeholders – (Recovery Time Objective) defines the maximum allowable time to resume end-user access to business applications before serious damage is done to the business.

  • Establish RPO with stakeholders – (Recovery Point Objective) establishes the maximum allowable amount of data loss (measured in time) before serious damage is done to the business (e.g. last tape backup).

  • Leverage credible sources and partners

I will leave you with one last thought…  BCDR Plans will only be funded within an organization if the key stakeholders understand it and “drink the Kool-Aid”.  To reinforce this fact, here is one of my favorite cartoons, that unfortunately, is reality to many:  http://www.dilbert.com/strips/comic/2000-08-15/

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