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How to Maintain Business Continuity throughout Disaster Recovery

Posted on Thu, Jun 20, 2013

The goal of business continuity planning is to restore operations efficiently through a systematic approach. In the event of a disaster, many companies lack adequate recovery planning and backup capabilities to restore critical information, essential processes, and normal business operations within an acceptable recovery time frame. The lack of recovery preparedness can adversely affect corporate reputation, financial stability, and overall resilience.

The recovery process is a sequence of interdependent and often concurrent activities that allow for measured advances toward a successful recovery. The time frame between temporary relocation and securing permanent facilities (either at the original or alternate facility) describe the recovery phase. Decisions and priorities set early in the recovery process often have a cascading effect on the evolution and speed of the recovery progress and business continuity efforts. Business unit management and staff must be familiar with and trained in the recovery procedures in order to effectively implement directives and maintain minimal business continuity.

Establishing plans that include comprehensive recovery processes and protocols prior to a disaster is essential. A fully coordinated post-disaster recovery plan should be implemented with internal and external stakeholders. Developing relationships and common understandings of roles and responsibilities prior to a disaster increases post-disaster collaboration and unified decision-making, streamlining the recovery process.

After the initial response and relocation of operations and personnel, the recovery phase includes, but is not limited to:

  • Damage assessments of primary facilities
  • Mobilization of tactical recovery teams
  • Recovery debriefings
  • Identification of recovery objectives
  • Initiation of restoration activities

The restoration phase addresses return of personnel to restored facilities, or permanent alternate facilities, and restoration of operations, and  includes:

  • Confirmation of the restoration of primary facilities and infrastructure
  • Confirmation of staff relocation schedules
  • Relocation to permanent facility
  • Consolidation and archiving incident documentation
  • Review and updating Business Continuity Plan based on lessons learned
  • Return to business as usual

Recovery outcomes vary based on incident circumstances, challenges,  and priorities. In the corporate world, a successful disaster recovery is typically characterized as the return of operations to pre-disaster conditions. FEMA’s National Disaster Recovery Framework provides key factors that contribute to a successful recovery.  These factors include:

1. Effective Decision making and Coordination:

    • Confirm roles and responsibilities of recovery team and stakeholders
    • Examine recovery alternatives, address conflicts and make informed and timely decisions that best achieve recovery
    • Establish metrics for tracking progress, ensuring accountability and reinforcing realistic expectations among stakeholders
    • Track progress, ensure accountability, and make procedural adjustments as necessary

2. Integration of Community Recovery Planning Processes:

    • Engage all stakeholders in pre-disaster business continuity and recovery planning, training, and exercises
    • Establish processes and criteria for identifying and prioritizing key recovery actions and projects

3. Well-managed Recovery:

    • Leverage and coordinate recovery teams, local response groups, government liaisons, and non-governmental organizations to accelerate the recovery process and avoid duplication of efforts
    • Surge staffing and management structures as necessary to support the workload during recovery
    • Establish leadership guidance, including the shift of roles and responsibilities, for the transition from response operations to recovery, and eventually a return to a normal (or new normal) operational state
    • Ensure regulatory compliance throughout recovery process

4. Proactive Community Engagement, Public Participation, and Public Awareness:

    • Ensure transparency and accountability
    • Communicate recovery objectives (short, intermediate and long-term) and applicable detailed information to employees, stakeholders, and community members

5. Well-administered Financials:

    • Clearly identify funding sources and financial recovery processes
    • Evaluate and present external programs that can provide financial assistance to aid in the recovery progress
    • Allow for budgetary flexibility, yet maintain adequate financial monitoring and accounting systems
    • Implement processes and systems that detect and deter fraud, waste, and abuse.

6. Organizational Flexibility:

    • Institute scalable and flexible processes that can align with recovery operations objectives
    • Institute business processes that can evolve and adapt to address the changing landscape of post-disaster environments

7. Resilient Rebuilding:

    • Invoke “Lessons Learned” in the restoration phase to minimize risks and threats, and improve response, recovery and restoration efforts.

For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download Tips for  Effective Exercises.

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Tags: Data Recovery, Resiliency, Business Continuity Plan, Disaster Recovery, Business Disruption