Disasters are unpredictable by nature and ignore them is at one's own peril. Hurricane Sandy showed us just this as it ripped through the US East Coast leaving major parts of Manhattan district reeling in the dark and causing massive issues for a number of businesses. It even paralysed the U.S financial markets that remained closed for two days, the first unplanned such closure due to weather in more than a century! Closer home, Cyclone Neelam wreaked havoc along the Tamil Nadu and Andhra coasts forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes and shut down businesses.
An interesting observation here is despite the fact that some of the world's largest companies had contingency plans in place, they were still unprepared for the disasters. More importantly, while most companies had some form of a Disaster Recovery (DR) plan in place, they had never been tested or tried out earlier. Obviously, this resulted in poor disaster responses in the face of nature's onslaught. In the larger scheme of things, it is not just about recent disasters like Sandy and Neelam, but rather about how well businesses are equipped to face unpredictable disasters that occur ever so often in both natural and man-made forms.. Which brings us to this question - what exactly should DR programs entail? Are our current DR plans sufficient?
The answer is of course a resounding no. In fact, in the wake of the recent disasters, it has been found that most DR plans are woefully inadequate and outdated. The onus is now on organizations to rethink the way they view DR. Some essential pointers to keep in mind while framing an effective DR plan are as follows:
- DR should not be viewed as an IT silo - rather these programs should bridge the gap between business needs and IT dependencies.
- Business continuity is at the heart of a DR plan. While DR is largely about rebuilding systems and restoring data after a risk scenario, business continuity ensures that the systems and business continue to run as usual with minimal disruption in the course of the disaster.
- By creating a Business Continuity Management (BCM) program in conjunction with DR, enterprises can have a centralized, comprehensive and up-to-date repository for disaster recovery, business continuity and contingency planning.
- BCM also serves as a strategic tool for non-disaster planning activities by providing real-time insights into all mission-critical business and technology processes.
- Senior management awareness and involvement in all aspects of a DR and BCM plan is necessary for it to be truly relevant and effective.
Business resilience is a priority in today's world and organizations would do well to pay heed to this even as Hurricane Sandy continues to remind us that we need to be prepared for the worst case at all times.