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February 2007
Volume 10 / Number 2

Continuity Planning 101
The Role of the Business Continuity Specialist

By Rich Tehrani & Max Schroeder, Disaster Prepardness

An interview with Michael Croy, Director, Business Continuity Solutions, Forsythe Solutions Group, Inc. (news - alert) The adage, “you only have one opportunity to make a good first impression” is certainly true. Since a significant percentage of businesses do not survive a major business interruption (bankruptcy or worse), the proverb for contingency planning could be, “if you don’t have a solid contingency plan in place for your first business interruption, you will not get a second chance.” This is a primary reason that business continuity/disaster planning specialists are so valuable, and is the reason we selected Michael Croy for this interview. Some basic facts on Forsythe:

  • Established in 1971
  • Over 718 employees in 38 locations throughout the U.S.
  • $517.6 million in 2005 Revenues

Although Forsythe offers a variety of services (, this interview will center on Forsythe’s IT Advisory Solutions that focus on IT strategy, business continuity and disaster recovery, information security, and data center services.

MS/RT: Forsythe has been in operation since 1971. At what point in time did Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery become part of your business offerings and why?

MC: When I joined Forsythe in 2002, the company provided some elements of business continuity and disaster recovery consulting services and hardware to its customers, such as network and server availability assessments, storage needs assessments, enterprise systems management support, and network, server, and storage hardware. Since then, our business continuity practice and all of our advisory solutions offerings have expanded tremendously. As with every evolution in our business, new approaches and offerings have been developed in response to what our customers tell us they need, based on the new challenges they face.

A key to all of this is that successful business continuity planning views the enterprise and the organization as a whole. You cannot approach business continuity as a separate endeavor from storage management or network optimization or server consolidation or any other piece of the infrastructure. It’s all interconnected.

MS/RT: Many organizations think of major disasters when the term business continuity/disaster preparedness is mentioned. Is this a correct association?

MC: One of the biggest misconceptions about business continuity/ disaster preparedness used to be the idea that it’s just for physical crises — fire or flood or, in more recent times, hurricanes or terrorist attack. But, other business interruptions, such as power outages, data security breaches, hardware or application failures, or even ordinary business events, such as mergers and acquisitions or business process failures, can be just as disruptive.

Another big misconception is that business continuity is just about technology. In fact, business continuity, just like business, involves people, places, and things. Anything that interrupts a business is a potential threat. What if the technology is working fine, but no one can get to work — maybe because of a major blizzard — as we’ve seen this winter in Colorado — or something like the pandemic threat we heard so much about in 2006?

MS/RT: Many small enterprises feel they cannot afford to have contingency plans in place and many large firms feel their internal IT staffs can handle planning. What are the top three reasons an enterprise should seek the help of a specialist firm like Forsythe?

MC: Whether you are a small organization or a large organization, fiscal and fiduciary responsibilities must be balanced to make the most cost-effective business continuity decisions. For small or large organizations, the business decision is based on the expected impact to the business. The critical factor is understanding the organization’s potential exposure not only in terms of dollars, but also in terms of market exposure. Once risks have been identified, smaller organizations should take a lesson in Risk Management 101 and make the business determination of whether to accept each risk, assign that risk externally, or mitigate it to an acceptable level.

That said, there are three fundamental reasons to bring in a specialist firm to assist in your business continuity planning. The first is that business continuity planning is not like network maintenance. You don’t do it every day and get better and better at it. Other than DR testing, which, by definition, can never be absolutely complete — you’re never going to know whether you got it right until you face a crisis. So, it pays to make use of the experience of those who’ve done it before, over and over again, and gotten better at it.

The second reason is that the essential first step in business continuity planning is to close the gap between what the business needs in a time of crisis and what IT can provide in terms of information availability and business functionality during that crisis. But, it can take a great deal of honesty, awareness, and communication across the organization to close this gap. An outside specialist can often minimize political snags and drive the process forward more smoothly.

The third reason is that an outside expert can provide a more holistic view of the organization. This is critical to truly understanding the business context of your IT and enables technology decisions that integrate business continuity improvements into the day-to-day business requirements of an organization’s IT environment. Many organizations that think they can’t afford to invest in business continuity “implementations” fail to understand that the same technologies and increased enterprise awareness that support business continuity also optimize day-to-day IT support of business functions. Business continuity is not so much something to “implement,” as it is a mindset for how to ensure that your technology optimally supports your business everyday and at time of crisis.

To Sum Up
As Michael points out very clearly, there are a lot of misconceptions regarding business continuity planning that need to be addressed if a company is to take on the task of a continuity project. By bringing in outside expertise, the project evaluation can get off to a rapid start and a decision can be made quickly. Plus, a professional evaluation will allow a company to make long range plans for a converged continuity/business requirements program. In the long run, this will also hold down costs.

A reminder: visit to view additional information provided by DPCF members, TMC, and the ECA.

Max Schroeder is a board member of the ECA, media relations committee chairman, and liaison to TMC. He is also the Sr. Vice President of FaxCore, Inc. (news - alert)

Rich Tehrani is the President and Group Editor-in-Chief at TMC and is Conference Chairman of Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO.

If your organization has an interest in participating in the TMC/ECA Disaster Preparedness Communications Forum, please contact [email protected] or [email protected].

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