It’s always beneficial to plan for the worst case scenario. In life and in business there are things you can control, and some things that you can’t. Severe weather events in the Northeast, including Hurricane Sandy and the other powerful snowstorms and nor’easters, are prime examples of things that we can’t control. Or more localized events like the recent gas explosion in Manhattan or fire in a nearby building. But what can be controlled is preparation for these events – the ability to proactively have a multi-faceted contingency plan in place to respond to all the “what-if” scenarios.
Most of us pay lip service to disaster recovery planning. The plan looks good on paper and we think we have everything covered, but then when there is an issue – be it a power outage, loss of communications or loss of access to your home or workplace – we realize how insufficient the plan really was. Sandy got the disaster recovery planning conversation started again, but did it really change the behavior of today’s IT leaders?
Most corporate disaster recovery plans seem to place the majority of focus – rightly so – on the IT infrastructure. Keeping the systems running and the data intact, in both corporate and third party data centers, should be priority one. However, that’s the point where most plans seem to stop. A critical, and often overlooked, component of any plan is a reliable and secure contingency worksite for a company’s most valuable assets: their people. What happens if one, or all of a company’s office locations become inaccessible? Or if travel to an office location is inaccessible? Are key employees equipped to work at home at a moment’s notice? Relocating people and operations is crucial to getting all business back up and running as soon as possible, but the people aspect is unfortunately minimized in most plans.
Third party business continuity centers offer a great solution to this dilemma. They provide move-in ready office space at secure location with backup power and redundant network connectivity. This gives companies a place for their employees to work, even during a disaster which disrupts the power grid and network communications.
But just like data centers, not all business continuity centers are created equal. When evaluating a continuity center, companies owe it to themselves to be thorough and think of every ‘what-if’ scenario.
- Availability – How much control do we have of the office space? Is it truly dedicated, or is it shared among multiple users on a “first come, first serve” basis?
- Accessibility – How convenient is the location? Are there multiple major roadways allowing for alternate routes to the site? Is there ample parking? Is it accessible via public transportation? What is the proximity to a major airport?
- Power – what is the power configuration at the location? Are generators supported by a common shared backup or is the infrastructure completely self-sufficient? What plans are in place for emergency fuel delivery?
- Connectivity – what network providers are available at the facility? Will this impact my ability to access my infrastructure? Is there network redundancy?
- Amenities – Are meeting rooms and kitchen space available at the facility? And if we need to be there for an extended period of time are there hotels and restaurants nearby?
- Support – what type of hands-on support is available at the facility?
If IT Infrastructure is the brain of a company, then employees are the heart. So no DR Plans can be considered complete unless it includes back up plans for employees. It’s always beneficial to plan for the worst case scenario.