Technical Storm: Technology Is Instrumental to Any Business Continuity Plan and Any Disaster-Recovery Effort

Article excerpt

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August 2005, few actions could protect the region's cities and residents, or their homes and businesses from the storm's force. Boarding up windows made little difference. Locking up properties hardly had an effect. In the end, the use of technology allowed for the most speedy and seamless recoveries.

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"I feel the key to any disaster business continuity plan is technology since the circumstances of the disaster most assuredly will strain or disable conventional resources and systems," said Joe Pappalardo, president of Latter & Blum Property Management Inc., in New Orleans.

Being able to protect data, access data and keep communication lines open is vital to the operations of any business when disaster strikes. Business continuity plans focused on technology can help real estate managers prevent incapacitating losses and help their businesses recover faster.

"By utilizing the highest technology available, we can minimize or mitigate the loss and maintain a 'pulse' for a reasonable shot at recovery from the devastation," Pappalardo said.

UP AND RUNNING

Having a reasonable shot at recovery requires considerable thought and careful planning. The first step in developing a technology-savvy plan is identifying and prioritizing key technology-driven operations a business simply cannot do without--like asset tracking or accounting applications, said Alan Sawchak, a senior business continuity consultant with Pennsylvania-based Strohl Systems.

While Sawchak doesn't work exclusively with real estate management companies' business continuity plans, he said it is important for any business to grasp how those processes are interconnected, how they are applied and what personnel and computer hardware are required to operate them.

By identifying the number of critical processes running on a particular technology system and estimating the financial consequences of losing that system, Sawchak said companies can uncover their greatest dependencies.

If a company has 30 different processes and 15 of those are run from the same system, he said that system should probably be recovered first. He also said if a company cannot meet minimum service levels and is going to lose half its revenue from a particular system being down, that system should be recovered quickly.

"What you want to be able to do is identify the most critical processes and try to ensure safeguards are in place so the impact of a disaster is minimal," Sawchak said.

A business impact analysis will help company leaders determine the level of technology necessary to achieve a minimum level of service and have a company up and running in a certain time frame. The analysis should study all of a company's business units, documenting all the technology and recovery a company might need to stay alive.

The Disaster Recovery Institute International in Washington, D.C., offers seminars and forms relating to tackling such an analysis, and software companies like Sawchak's Strohl Systems offer business impact analysis software. Sawchak said completing an impact analysis or turning to a consultant is necessary to create a tailored and appropriate business continuity plan for those uncertain of their technology needs.

Some plans can be quite complicated, going as far as setting up a corporate emergency operations center where key executives can gather to review information on the impact of the disaster and then use that data to make decisions on how to recover. Other plans might simply include having appropriate communications technology to reach key employees.

One thing is certain, Sawchak said: Recovery hinges on the use of technology and backing up a company's key processes.

"We've changed so much as a society and as businesses," Sawchak said. …

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