Is a disaster recovery plan an important part of business operations? In today’s ever-changing world, any number of disasters could potentially impact a business as well as the employees who rely on that business to earn a living. When unexpected disaster strikes, understanding strategies for how and why to implement a disaster recovery plan could save a business from extended periods of downtime, negatively impacted profitability, and struggling employees.
In a recent USA Manufacturing Chat on Twitter, Host David Crysler from The Crysler Club led a discussion about the “hows” and “whys” of disaster recovery for businesses.
What is Disaster Recovery Planning?
The discussion kicked off with Host, Crysler, asking participants what their definition of disaster recovery planning is. Participants contributed their thoughts.
Gina M. Tabasso from MAGNET in Ohio said, “Protecting your servers offsite in another city to avoid taking down your business.”
VirtuDesk said, “Being prepared for the worst!”
Gail Robertson from Gail Now in Canada said, “Part of a process to protect & save your business. Get help with this before you need. I worked in insurance and believe me this is a crucial part of business operations!”
Jeanette Stevens from GENEDGE Alliance in Virginia said, “Recovery applications and systems, maintaining the business standards and systems in the case of a disaster or catastrophic event.”
Dan Bigger from Custom Profile in Michigan said, “I am assuming it is preplanning for an issue so that it can be acknowledged, worked, and fixed asap.”
Pavel Stepanov from VirtuDesk said, “Protecting your business from disasters and training your team to be ready in critical situations to minimize its impact on your operations.”
Kirsten Austin from DCSC Inc in Missouri said, “Guessing here, but trying to think of anything that could go wrong and making a back-up plan or the BIG PLAN B.”
Ruby Rusine from Social Success Marketing in California said, “It is the process of developing policies and mechanisms designed to mitigate the impact of a disaster on a business - and it should be ongoing.”
Rebecca Prox from DSI/Dynamatic in Wisconsin said, “Having in writing what you intend to do should disaster strike, and how to keep your disaster recovery going smoothly.”
Nigel T Packer from PelaTis Online in Wales, United Kingdom said, “Like all good scouts "Be Prepared". Look at every aspect of the business and make sure there is a plan in place to mitigate total disaster. I have always resorted to FMEA... Failure Mode Effect Analysis. What can go wrong and what can be done to mitigate it.”
Matthew from Aviate Creative in New Jersey said, “Being organized in the face of protecting your employees, your customers and your data.”
Kati McDermith from Industry Net in Illinois said, “I am here to learn all about this!”
Mike Womack from NJMEP in New Jersey said, “Disasters caused by nature or criminals are unavoidable. Continuity planning and a Disaster Recovery strategy will help ensure businesses have a plan in place for when the unforeseeable happens. The stronger plan they have, the quicker they can bounce back.”
Host Crysler said, “The definition of disaster recovery is the process of identifying specific risks and pre-planning how you will continue or restart operations in case of a disaster.”
Planning for Both Internal and External Disasters
The discussion then turned to why it is important to identify and plan for both internal and external disasters. Participants gave their thoughts on the importance of planning.
Bigger contributed, “Because they can happen in both cases. It is not one or the other.”
Tabasso answered, “So you can keep doing business and delivering without long delays and also so you don't lose or compromise historical data.”
VirtuDesk said, “Because they are the frame of your business. Without the other, you failed to prepare.”
Stevens said, “It is important to the longevity and safeguarding of the business and operations you've worked so hard to build. It's frightening sometimes the swiftness with which a disaster can destroy years of hard work.”
Stepanov said, “Exactly. Just imagine an earthquake and the casualties it could bring to your business. That's a huge loss.”
Prox said, “Disasters are a lot like accidents. We never know how, when, or where they will happen. We just need to be prepared if they do.”
FreightPOP in California said, “Disasters of any type can cause panic in the workplace, and that can disrupt your on-the-fly thinking. It's always better to be prepared and have a plan, so you don't have to make any big decisions when emotions kick in.”
Matthew from Aviate Creative in New Jersey said, “To give you a chance to minimize any risks that might arise as a result of unexpected or unlikely, but catastrophic, events.”
Stepanov said, “Preparing for both covers the majority of your business operation and lessens its impact on both aspects.”
McDermith said, “I think it's best to have plan in place if disaster strikes so there is no down time and then it just becomes an inconvenience instead of a disaster.”
Rusine said, “Reduced impact to business operations - or life in general. Can’t leave it to chance.”
Packer contributed, “Internal disasters are easier to deal and are under your control - no excuse. Externals are harder to deal with requiring monitoring of third parties and global events. Few businesses and even Governments were prepared for the last 20 months.”
Host Crysler said, “Different types of disasters will have different impacts on your business. It's important to understand the impact before planning continuity.”
Examples of Internal and External Disasters
There are many examples of internal and external disasters that should be planned for. Participants gave their thoughts on some of the disasters that could occur and affect a business.
Tabasso said, “My desk chair breaking, my computer having the blue screen of death, a subcontractor/vendor/service partner dropping the ball, not getting paid...”
Prox quipped, “AAAAAAH the blue screen of death!!!”
She added, “Internal Example - tech systems go down. Do we have a way to manage business manually? External Example - tornado hits our building. Can we do work remotely?”
Bigger said, “Internal can be power outages or computer issues, hacking. External can be weather, economy downturns, pandemics.”
Stevens said, “Well there are insane pandemic level viruses like COVID,cyber attacks,employee strikes, theft..etc.”
Robertson said, “Don’t just plan for the last disaster! Look ahead. Imagine if we had paid more attention to movies talking about a pandemic! Next will be the impact of rising water on coastal areas! We need to pay attention - and yes, get curious about what is next.”
Dana Engelbert from Mississippi said, “Don't forget reputational challenges. Those can come from within or outside the company.”
McDermith said, “Pandemics, supply chain issues...just to name a few.”
Rusine said, “External:
- Riots, civil war and war
- Disease outbreaks
- Devastating weather
- Economic collapse
- Environmental disasters
- Major infrastructure failures (nuclear, oil pipelines or other consumer boycotts)”
VirtuDesk said, “The most common: Internal: Data loss, Fire, Workplace violence, security and data breach, integrity issues, etc. External: Natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, typhoons, pandemics, etc.”
Packer said, “Internal or external start with the mission critical issues. Ask the question What if...? This starts with a discussion and then leads to an investigation. Prioritize and deal with each in turn. look for ways to take the risk out now. You will sleep better.”
Host Crysler said, “Examples of Internal Disasters include Theft, Hardware/Software Crash, Data Loss, Cashflow Interruption.” He added, “Examples of External Disasters include Natural Disaster, Data Breach, Fire Near By, Pandemic, Supply Chain Disruption, Utility Outage.”
Why Businesses Don’t Implement Disaster Planning
The discussion turned to the topic of why businesses do not implement disaster planning. Participants shared some of the reasons they thought businesses might avoid or fail to implement a disaster plan.
Bigger said, “Lack of time and resources.”
Tabasso said, “Time, resources, cost, out of sight and out of mind.”
FreightPOP answered, “Many businesses get caught thinking, "Well that would never happen to us!" This is not the right mindset! They also may think their time is better spent on other projects that have more tangible results.”
Beth Bigelow from Home Building Solutions in Michigan said, “People tend to get lazy on things that aren't front and center.”
Prox said, “Cost, lack of time, no one wants to take charge.”
Matthew from Aviate Creative said, “There are probably a variety of reasons but for SMEs it's likely that they just don't have the time, energy, or need, especially if their staff WFH and their internal comms and data are relatively safely stored.”
Engelbert said, “Who wants to think about those kinds of things? Time. Thinking it isn't needed - see this a lit with small companies.”
John Buglino from Optessa Inc in NJ said, “Mindset. Thinking that you’ll will never need them, so why bother?”
Robertson said, “Mindset. You make time for things that you value and put a priority on. So you have to decide it’s important and get educated about what happens when you don’t have a plan. Much like insurance. We buy insurance and hope we never need it.”
Stevens said, “Thinking everything is fine, or believing there is no time for it.”
Packer answered, “What could go wrong? We have been doing it like this for the last 20 years. Anyone in business support will have come across this response many times. It is usually when the proverbial hits the fan that you get called in.”
Host Crysler said, “We're reactive by nature.” He added, “We need to make a decision and practice being proactive. It's easy to think your business is not at risk and it's challenging to set aside time to plan for a "what if" scenario.”
How Often to Plan for Disasters
The discussion concluded with participants providing their thoughts on how often disaster planning should be completed. There were some opinions on this discussion point.
Bigger answered, “Quarterly.”
Tabasso said, “Annually.”
Prox said, “My first thought is annually, but it seems like disasters hit more often than we'd like lately. Maybe we should review every 4-6 months.”
McDermith said, “If it were up to me, we would be constantly be planning! But for sure every time I heard of a potential threat.”
Buglino said, “At least annually. I have seen cases where it was revisited due to an acquisition.”
Matt from Aviate Creative said, “Once a year, depending on the volatility of your business location and the surrounding environmental risks. If you're located in an area that floods regularly, you might want to do it more frequently (or just move).”
VirtuDesk said, “Annually.”
Stevens said, “Once or twice per year with regular check-ups.”
FreightPOP said, “Once a plan is created, it should be reviewed at least 2-3 times a year, just to make sure plans stay updated and relevant.”
Rusine said, “I think it depends. In some cases, it should be on-going. For example, multiple data centers for your business data. Online piracy is a clear and present threat these days. For one, secure your website with a back up.”
Host Crysler said, “You should review your disaster recovery plan at least once per year. You're looking for what's changed in your business that will impact your plan to continue or restart operations in the event of a disaster.”
There are many disasters that can interrupt the general operations of a business. Avoiding a lengthy period of downtime that negatively affects a business and it’s employees is an important reason for having a disaster recovery plan. With a well-planned strategy and a solid plan in place, businesses should be able to recover quickly and productively from most disasters.
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