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Where Disaster Recovery Meets Document Management!

[This is part of a special
Disaster Planning section
from the November 2006 issue.]

Among other things,
a disaster recovery plan covers the data, hardware and software critical for
a business to restart operations in the event of a natural or human-caused disaster.
It should also include plans for coping with the unexpected or sudden loss of
key personnel, although it is not covered in this article. Rather, the focus
here is on data protection.

Definitions of Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity Planning:

• Disaster recovery in information technology is the ability of an
infrastructure to restart operations after a disaster. While many of today’s
larger computer systems contain built-in programs for disaster recovery, standalone
recovery programs often provide enhanced features. Disaster recovery is used
both in the context of data loss prevention and data recovery.
• Business Continuity Planning (BCP) is a methodology used to create
a plan for how an organization will resume partially or completely interrupted
critical function(s) within a predetermined time after a disaster or disruption.
BCP may be a part of a larger organizational effort to reduce operational
risk associated with poor information security controls, and thus has a number
of overlaps with the practice of risk management.

Many different risks can negatively impact the normal operations of an organization.
A risk assesment should be performed to figure out what constitutes a disaster
and which risks a specific company is susceptible to, including the following:

• Natural Disasters
• Fire
• Power Failure
• Terrorist Attacks
• Organized or Delierate Disruptions
• System and/or Equipment Failures
• Human Error
• Computer Viruses
• Legal Issues
• Worker Strikes

In the ’80s, you might have owned a few fireproof cabinets in which
to store your paper files in case of a natural disaster. In the ’90s,
you graduated to computer systems with electronic files such as Word and Excel
files and utilized one of the above mentioned disaster recovery techniques.
When the century turned, we were introduced to new technologies that were meant
to consider the disparity of paper and electronic documents. This software is
referred to as document management, and here are some typical questions firms
should be asking when seeking a document management system:

• Storage. Where will we keep our documents? How much can we spend
to store them?
• Retrieval. How can people find needed documents? How much time can
be spent looking for them?
• Filing. How do we organize our documents? How do we ensure documents
are filed appropriately?
• Security. How do we protect against the loss, tampering or destruction
of documents? How do we keep sensitive information hidden?
• Archival. How do we ensure the readability of documents in the future?
How can we protect our documents against fires, floods or natural disasters?
• Retention. How do we decide what documents to retain? How long should
they be kept? How do we remove them afterwards?
• Distribution. How do we get documents into the hands of people who
need them? How much can we spend to distribute the documents?
• Workflow. If documents need to pass from one person to another, what
are the rules for how their work should flow?
• Creation. If more than one person is involved in creating a document,
how will the people collaborate?

I am always asked to explain how document management and disaster recovery
separate or combine. More and more document management systems are offering
components of disaster recovery, and, to confuse you even further, more and
more companies are offering disaster recovery options. In document management,
the concept is to combine your electronic data with your scanned paper files
so that all the information (say for a client file) is in one place (e-mails,
spreadsheets, tax return, workpapers, engagement letter, etc.). By the nature
of ending disparately stored information, you have a much easier task of considering
disaster recovery on a central storage repository.

As you create a virtual filing environment for both electronic documents and
scanned documents, there is the looming question of applying protection for
your firm’s information through redundant backup of your now central repository
system. The summary below will give you a few important definitions and some
good options for combining a document management system with good disaster recovery

Document Management & Disaster Recovery Options:
There are two types of document management systems offered in the market.

1. Internal. Server database and document storage is locally
at your firm location.
2. Hosted/ASP. Server database and document storage is outsourced
to reside at an outside location (should be a level 4 facility).

In either model (internal or hosted), you should have, at a bare minimum,
the following:

• Mirrored Server. Protect you from hardware failure.
• Redundancy. Off-site backup.

In the hosted model, you are already accomplishing offsite backup into what
should be a much higher level of protection facility than your office location.
In either model, you should, however, have redundant off-site backup in separate
locations and on separate power grids. These are just a few of the items to
be aware of when considering disaster recovery plans and document management


Andrew Hatfield is Chief Strategic Officer for Acct1st Technology Group
LLC in Dallas, Texas (