The fundamental responsibility for business continuity planning and disaster recovery (BCP/DR) lies with the corporate executives. Vendors, contractors and staff all play an important role to ensure continuity of operations, but it is essential that BCP/DR be regarded as a central business process. Critical business processes -- along with underlying systems, environments, facilities, people and processes -- all must have availability requirements and business value well defined by executive management. A clearly articulated and managed vision will help to overcome coordination, technology or vendor bias and cost justification challenges.
Which way to the business continuity planning department? An enterprise BCP/DR project can span across operations, applications, networking, security, HR, facilities, executive and business-unit and end-user communities. Coordination of all these groups requires a distinct mission statement and project plan for execution via the BCP team or consulting team. Without executive level direction and support, the overall mission can take on a life of its own from department to department.
Too often, when IT operations get the requirement for BCP/DR planning, the business requirements for continuity somehow reshape to meet the technology infrastructure capabilities in place. Technology bias and especially vendor bias hamper technical planning and decision-making abilities. A degree of objectivity, even if paid for in an independent consultant, can help steer an organization from the pitfalls of biased and sometimes shortsighted decisions. In one such project, an operations manager was dead-set on implementing a DR technology that did not meet the enterprise architecture standards or business requirements for continuity. The project lacked executive direction as the CIO was being replaced. After politically derailing the enterprise DR project and unsuccessfully launching the DR technology of personal choice, the manager gave up. After months of stagnation, the organization finally refocused on the originally chosen enterprise DR technology. While IT availability and continuity are only segments of BCP, objective technology planning lays a cornerstone for long term DR plan success.
Whether you're working to meet FDIC or HIPPA security requirements, creating business continuity plans and disaster recovery capable infrastructure is expensive. The costs of downtime, risk factoring and operations all directly impact the BCP/DR budget. Business impact analysis and risk studies can be conducted in-house or by external consultants to help build cost justification. Technology neutral planning can also help in the process of building a cost-efficient plan. Executive commitment and vision bring all of these processes together.
This is the second in our series on disaster recovery and business continutiy planning by John Merryman. See the first issue in this series.
About the author: John Merryman is an independent consultant, specializing in infrastructure and storage technology analysis, planning, management and disaster recovery/business continuity planning. Please feel free to contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.