The Foolishness of Poor Contingency Planning

Convergence Corner

The Foolishness of Poor Contingency Planning

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  December 11, 2012

With the restoration and reconstruction efforts under way after Hurricane Sandy left a path of destruction across the coastlines of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, the volunteers, businesses and agencies that have tirelessly provided their support deserve our unconditional gratitude and respect.

No words can truly console those who have suffered losses, and we can only hope the efforts to restore them to some level of normalcy will be swift.

Unfortunately, there’s little that can be done to minimize the impact of such an event. For businesses, however, it serves as yet another reminder that contingency planning and BC/DR strategies can significantly limit their operational impact in many situations. Indeed, they have a number of options available to help ensure operational continuity in extreme circumstances, for both normal operations as well as pure backup scenarios.

From hosted communications providers to virtualized applications and resources, one of the realities proven out by the current mobility trend is that employees need to be able to function normally from anywhere under nearly any circumstance – and the technology to enable that is within reach of every business. There are, of course, situations where complete loss of connectivity precludes any BC/DR strategy, but barring that, there isn’t a good reason for a lack of contingency planning.

That begs the question: Why are there still so many businesses that haven’t learned from past experiences and put plans in place to ensure operational continuity?

Countless executives have witnessed the business impact of an outage and have taken the appropriate measures to ensure their data centers and servers are backed up in redundant facilities, have deployed cloud-based e-mail and communications solutions, and have implemented remote and mobile access options for employees.

According to Gartner’s (News - Alert) research, however, more than two-thirds of SMBs do not have appropriate disaster recovery plans in place (enterprise implementation is expectedly higher), likely because they don’t see a potential risk or they feel it’s too costly – or a combination. Even in a limited risk scenario, it’s prudent for every business to have some level of continuity plan in place, as there are too many variables in play over which businesses have no control, from services to physical infrastructure and power.

The other factor is likely that a proper plan takes time to implement; it’s not as easy as most other IT-related tasks. Begin with a proper risk assessment and business impact analysis – including determining which resources are most critical for guaranteed uptime, then determining what options are available and which are most suitable, to implementing the technology and processes, and finally testing and making any necessary adjustments, BC/DR planning take time.

Often, because there isn’t a crisis at hand, executives put these plans on the back burner, only to realize too late they hadn’t formalized their plans for operational consistency. When an outage hits – whether due to natural disaster, technological failure, or other factors – it’s far too late. Even when one is predicted, as was the case with Sandy – the strength and scope of Mother Nature’s wrath was well known well in advance – there isn’t enough time to scramble to piece together the necessary technology, and businesses suffer massive revenue losses. Many have even found themselves having to shutter their operations as a result of lengthy outages.

There is no hidden secret here. It’s simple – take the time and spend the resources to properly research and implement a BC/DR strategy. If you do, you’ll level the playing field against natural and man-made disasters. Failure can only result in businesses disaster, compounding any other unfortunate event.

As the old adage goes, a smart man learns from his mistakes, but a truly wise man learns from the mistakes of others – and only a fool doesn’t learn at all. Don’t be a fool, plan for worst-case scenarios now.

If you need to find out more about BD/DR strategies, hosted communications, cloud computing and virtualization, mobility options, or other technologies that can help your business survive the next outage, join us Jan. 30-Feb.1, 2013 for ITEXPO (News - Alert) Miami at the Miami Beach Convention Center, where the conference program and exhibit hall will be full of vendors and experts ready to share their expertise to ensure your business is prepared. I hope to see you there.

Edited by Braden Becker