Ensuring that a company could continue day-to-day operations in the face of a large-scale disruption to its information technology (IT) infrastructure is a critical yet often overlooked or underemphasized component of a company’s business plan in what is an increasingly risk-prone, technology-dependent global business environment. Procuring and testing the computer rentals, server rentals and critical systems that would be necessary to ensure business continuity for a company that (unlike many of the largest and most technology dependent companies) does not have a dedicated alternate disaster recovery site in place is perhaps one of the easiest and most efficient ways for a company to kickstart a business continuity initiative.
“Business continuity” the buzzword in the disaster recovery field has been a focus of concern for both industry and government in the unsettling wake of events in this post-9/11 world. Public Safety Canada distinguishes between a “business resumption plan”, a “disaster recovery plan” and a “business continuity plan”. A “business resumption plan” focuses on how a business will resume normal operations after a disruption caused by natural or man-made causes. A “disaster recovery plan” focuses on how a company will recover its IT assets after a disastrous interruption, while a “business continuity plan” emphasizes how a company can enable critical services or products to be continually delivered to clients in the face of a disastrous disruption of its normal functions. Instead of focusing on resuming operations after critical operations have ceased, or recovering after a disaster, a business continuity plan endeavors to ensure that critical operations continue to be available.
What level of planning a company requires – business resumption versus disaster recovery versus business recovery – will depend, of course, on the size of a company and the product and services it provides clients and customers. Most likely all companies will require elements of all three as part of overall business planning. Like having an insurance policy, no business wants to have to rely on the provisions of its disaster recovery planning but having disaster recovery planning remains prudent and necessary for long-term business survival.
The “Guide to Business Continuity Planning,” set out by Public Safety Canada (a branch of the Canada’s federal government) and available on its website at http://www.ps-sp.gc.ca, notes that a company’s plans for what it would do in the face of a potential ‘disaster’ should include “risk evaluation, management and control and effective plans, measures and arrangements for business continuity.” The PSC identifes two critical areas that need to be addressed:
“* Plans, measures and arrangements to ensure the continuous delivery of critical services and products, which permits the organization to recover its facility, data and assets.
* Identification of necessary resources to support business continuity, including personnel, information, equipment, financial allocations, legal counsel, infrastructure protection and accommodations.”
Equipment providers that specialize in business computer rentals can provide the technical expertise and computer rentals, server rentals and peripherals etc. to “dry run” a company’s response to a ‘disaster’ that shuts down normal operations.
Of course, the level of preparedness and tolerance for disruptions to operations will vary from business to business. A company in the data processing industry, for example, will likely already have operative business continuity and data recovery plans, procedures, equipment and facilities in place and running. A company that is not as IT dependent and has some built-in tolerance for short-term disruptions (say 24 to 72 hours) may not.
For such companies, when taking out the “insurance” of preparing business continuity/resumption and disaster recovery planning, a relatively inexpensive exercise in setting up a working alternate site with the computer rentals and server rentals that would be required in the wake of a sudden and serious IT disruption could be the most effective “insurance premium” it ever pays in terms of the overall costs and benefits to its short and long-term business prospects. Conducting a “dry run” will allow a company the opportunity to develop its plan for the unexpected and highlight the ‘glitches’ that will inevitably arise the first time an alternative short-term IT structure is set up.