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Business (Continuity) as Usual
To prevent a loss in data, dollars, and productivity after disaster strikes, the first priority in business continuity should be making sure that your facility’s vital applications are up and running as soon as possible. Once your facility is secure and there is no immediate on-site danger, it’s time to check on these mission-critical systems (the systems and resources that must be recovered within seconds, minutes, or hours after the disaster to keep your organization in operation) and their back-up structures. If possible, these important back-up systems should be located at a pre-determined, off-site location. Off-site locations have proven to be effective: Many of the businesses that survived the events of 9/11 are the same businesses that maintained seldom-used locations to store back-up data and critical information.
Off-site location arrangements for some facilities simply consist of a consensual agreement with another company, a supplier, a business partner, or a customer (or another building within an organization’s portfolio) to maintain reciprocal back-up sites for each other. If this is your facility’s situation, connect with your disaster-recovery “partner” to ensure that back-up equipment is in operation and to make them aware that you’ll need access to the equipment and data you have stored there.
Another option for an off-site location includes a “hot site.” Hot sites can be moved into immediately after a catastrophe, and are the ultimate in disaster preparation; they offer everything needed to keep a business going (cabling, computers, telecommunications systems, furniture, an inventory of company assets, etc.) when another location suffers some sort of damage. These sites are fully equipped; every piece of equipment located in your facility’s data center should be a part of your hot site. Most hot sites are continuously synchronized with the data center for little or no loss of data during an event. Many experts recommend that the hot site be within driving distance (as illustrated by the events of 9/11, airlines can’t always be counted on for 24/7 service), but located far enough away so that the disaster affecting your facility hasn’t also affected your hot site. When MasterCard Intl. established a disaster-recovery facility, it chose to locate the site in Kansas City, MO, approximately 300 miles from its primary data center in O’Fallon, MO. But the facility isn’t sitting inactive until something happens to the Kansas City facility - it’s being used for occasional co-processing of application data as well.
“Cold sites” require a little more work, since they’re everything a hot site isn’t. If part of your disaster-recovery plan includes a cold site, now’s the time to start bringing the site up to “live” status by turning on IT equipment (or bringing in IT equipment). These sites can be equipped with short notice, but it takes a little bit of work to get them ready for action.
“Warm sites” fall somewhere in between a hot site and a cold site. They should house some back-up equipment ready for immediate use (servers, storage equipment, etc.). Prebuilt communications equipment is often stored and ready for immediate connectivity; the equipment just needs to be brought online.
Outside vendors oftentimes maintain these hot/cold/warm sites for facilities, so make sure to connect with the third-party vendor managing your site (if applicable) after a disaster to ensure that things are going smoothly and that the site is ready for occupancy (even on a minimal level).
After mission-critical systems have been verified as operational, check on the other important items relevant to business operation (the systems and resources that must be recovered within 1 day of a disaster to maintain productivity levels, such as telephone service). After these systems are under control, attention can then be devoted toward non-essential items.
Leah B. Garris (email@example.com), Senior Associate Editor
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