From the September 2009 Issue
The world remains stunned when it comes to disasters and planning for the inevitable. Between man-made terrorism and natural disasters that came about over the last decade, the attitude changed from “If a disaster occurs” to “When a disaster occurs.”
While Hurricane Katrina, World Trade Center bombings and other disasters taught us to be ever watchful, disaster recovery and business continuity planning seems to be mostly out of sight and out of mind for businesses … until something happens. That’s just the way we’re wired … but not the way we need to react.
We’ve come a long way from focusing on system backups or emergency call lists. Thanks to technology, it’s easier now, more than ever before, to prepare your firm and your clients for the worst possible scenario. Here’s how:
INTEGRATION IS KEY
David Callery, a Business Software consultant for Coe & Company, LLC in New Orleans, La., considers himself an expert in disaster recovery, and he should. Amidst the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Callery was ready and able to assist not only his firm, but also his clients using Microsoft, Sage and Intuit solutions.
“I believe there still needs to be a shift in the way businesses look at technology; many companies, especially smaller ones, tend to make the investment in technology and think it will hold them for a number of years,” says Callery. “While this may have been the case 10 years ago, there are many more things affecting technology today. All of those aspects change on a daily basis.”
Because Callery believes business software providers, operating system publishers, web developers, office products and hardware manufacturers all affect the operation of a business, integration of all functions is key.
“A change by one typically demands a change by all in operating the compatible software elements. While the cost for normal technology maintenance is another business expense to deal with, it is far less costly than the three- to five-year replacement/upgrade plan businesses adopted in the past.”
Callery sorts his disaster recovery solutions into three buckets: updated software, replaceable hardware and backups. And although all three areas relate to technology, they are not too highly technical to understand. Take, for example, installed software. Common sense is a big part of pre-planning.
“You want to make sure the installed software is accessible through a backup,” he says. “All companies do not maintain the installation disks of their software in a readily accessible location, and the applied service packs associated with the currently installed software on servers and workstations are not always included in the backup process.”
Because it is difficult to find the appropriate software level version on the Internet for older software — and if the installation is not at the exact level of the database — incompatibility issues will not allow the system to run.
“You also want to make sure you are on a supported level of software and it is compatible with your current operating system. Software publishers will transition a version of software off of their support list about every five to seven years. For example, if you have Microsoft Office 97, you will probably not be able to get support directly from Microsoft. This is the same with any application and, most importantly, with the vertical market software companies that support manufacturing, project cost, distribution packages and other functions.”
Next comes hardware. If a company loses its hardware during a disaster, two types of hardware need to be replaced as soon as possible: computers and printers. However, older workstations may not be replaceable in the same configuration. This was a huge problem for some companies after Katrina and would similarly be a huge problem now, says Callery.