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Beyond recovery: the real conversation on distancing between production and recovery

By Lawrence Robert.

‘The distance between a business production location and the recovery location’ is one of the ’age old’ topics we regularly discuss at business continuity conferences and in the various Internet discussion groups.

We talk about it from an IT perspective, such as replication, cloud processing, redundancy, robust networks and secure accessibility. We talk about it from a staffing perspective, such as hot sites, cold sites, warm sites, driving distance, regional events and staff availability.

Although we would love to hear an easy answer, the topic requires a deeper exploration. The conversation should gravitate towards a better understanding and alignment towards the always-changing business model.

The ideal conversations on this subject are the ones that start and focus on risk to the business and embedding strategic business continuity and disaster recovery design in business expansion and changes in the business models.

Domestic companies will find value in the forthcoming approach; but the dispersed global business would benefit greatly.

Dialogue relating to continuity and recovery should originate at the start of new business coming into the organization and/or when the business model changes; and should include questions such as:

1) How are business departments designed and deployed throughout the company globally?

2) How are critical functions dispersed through the various locations?

An efficiently run business is always looking at its model and adapting to change — not only within the four walls of the company, but also global changes. As we operate in what Thomas Friedman has coined “a flat world,” businesses need to consider factors that 20 years ago didn’t exist to the level they do today. Economic and social changes occurring around the globe on a regular basis force businesses to look at all factors from a comprehensive cost perspective. Business models need to adapt when it becomes disadvantageous being in a specific country. Issues such as unstable governments, civil unrest, devalued currency or inflation that cause the cost point to increase and push the business out of a market, (for example, due to increased salaries and cost of living, or industries that are more favorable drawing on your employee pool). There are many more but the point is the dynamics of change outside of a company can greatly influence the inner workings of that company. And where the company goes, so does business continuity and disaster recovery.

Business continuity and disaster recovery programs must align and adapt with business models no matter how fluid they become, rather than react to those changes once they are in place. At that point we are playing ‘catch up’.

What can we do as professionals to add value and protect the companies we represent?

1) Understand the 3-5-10 year growth plan of your business — not the details, but the overall direction the company is heading.
2) Understand how your company delivers product and services to customers.
3) Know where the key customer bases are located.
4) Understand how your data center(s) operate and how locations are networked.
5) Get involved when new business models, expansions, and acquisitions are being introduced.
6) Make suggestions on how to disperse workloads by realignment of department staff across geographical locations
7) Develop a program that incorporates ‘seamless’ into the plan. Don’t use this as a buzz word but implement the transitional aspects of moving work around the company with little disruption.

There are others — especially when we apply insourcing, outsourcing and home sourcing to the mix — but the idea is to achieve alignment with the business model in every aspect of your business continuity and disaster recovery program. This is true risk management. Knowing the landscape of a five-year plan for your business can only add value to how you approach solutions development.

Ideally, solutions should be developed locally and applied globally; and
efficiencies are key in a successful business continuity and disaster recovery program program.

Understanding the business at this level allows you (and the management staff) to recognize that not all business functions need a replicated, redundant, seamless, automatic, four-second failover capability. Be sure to scale the criticality of the business process and functions to the cost of the recovery solution. The goal is to provide the highest protection at the most efficient cost.

From an IT perspective, involve yourself in discussions on replication, virtualization, Thin Client, telephony and other efficiencies in processing critical business functions. Duplicating infrastructure is not always the answer, but having a variation of less expensive infrastructure is the sign of a well thought out mature disaster recovery environment.

Be sure to have disaster recovery part of all discussions at the start of a project.

Business continuity not only protects the business but also provides a window into the business that IT organizations can leverage when implementing production infrastructure. If IT dollars are being spent on a sliding scale based on critical functions, then IT/business alignment is much more in sync. Change management is a key part of a successful recovery program.

What we do as business continuity and disaster recovery professionals is not only apparent when an event occurs, but we can play an important part in how business models are developed. At the very least, we can contribute to the discussion by presenting risks and cost efficient solutions as our business changes. At best, we can influence decisions that protect the company over the long term. Build your programs so you can ‘bolt on’ components as the business expands, leveraging existing solutions.

This is an exciting time for business opportunities globally while expanding our role as true business partners who help our industry grow in scope. When the question is asked, “How far away do we put our recovery site,” the answer should be “it doesn’t matter”. In a globally disbursed business model that has a mature business continuity and disaster recovery program, continuity is truly achieved by making recovery secondary.

Lawrence Robert

Author: Lawrence Robert, CBCP, BC/DR Manager, General Dynamics C4 Systems

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•Date: 14th Jan 2011 • Region: US/World •Type: Article •Topic: Recovery facilities

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