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Data Communications

The same principles that apply to voice communications recovery also apply to data communications recovery. LAN/WAN recovery can, potentially, be especially difficult and time-consuming without specialized expertise to supervise and execute it.

Facility

Facility

For a company or organization that has one facility, the recovery plan must provide some means of recovery if that facility is destroyed or if, for any reason, no one can enter it for several days or weeks. Most people are unaware that most municipal fire departments have the authority to quarantine a building or facility during an emergency. For example, if a hazardous material (hazmat) spill were to occur just outside a company or organization’s facility, the fire department could prevent anyone from entering that structure for several hours, days, or even weeks. This would make it very difficult for a company or organization to continue, resume, or recover their business operations in a reasonable amount of time unless it moved to a recovery site.

Data Backups

Data Backups

Data is critical to the recovery of any computerized business operation. It is the one element that usually cannot be re-created if it is lost. Data can be softcopy (electronic) or hardcopy (paper). Electronic data can include operating systems, computer programs (applications), word processing files, spreadsheets, databases, etc. Some experts exclude operating systems and applications from this classification, but include only files created by the users.

Backups can be taken several times a day, a week, or a month, depending upon the production volume and the nature of the organization’s business, but especially depending upon how long the company could afford to be non-productive.

Backups are generally categorized as base-line or incremental. Base-line backups involve transferring critical files—in their entirety—to tape, disk, or to another computer. Incremental backups involve transferring only those files that have changed since the last base-line or incremental backup was taken. As you can imagine, incremental backups take less time to do, thereby saving valuable computer and personnel time as well as storage space.

Off-Site Storage

Off-Site Storage

In addition to base-line and incremental, data backups fall into two other categories: those kept in or near the computer room for rapid user data recovery, and those kept off-site, to be used to recover from a serious problem.

Backups kept off-site should be stored in a secure location that is sufficiently distant from the production facility so that, in the event of a major area-wide catastrophe, both sites will not be wiped out. One rule of thumb used for many years by business continuity professionals is that the backup storage site should be a minimum of seven to ten miles from the processing site. Although this is a general rule of thumb, there are geographical locations where this recommended distance would not be acceptable—for example, in Tornado Alley, or along the Florida coast.

Computer Application Programs

Computer Application Programs

Some software vendors encode their proprietary software so that it will run on one particular machine—identified uniquely, usually by serial number—and not on any other. If a company or organization were trying to recover on an identical but different machine, this software would not function until the vendor supplied a key or some other means of “unlocking” the software to run on the recovery machine. Arrangements need to be made with the software vendor ahead of time, and documented in the recovery plan.

Workaround Plans and Procedures

Workaround Plans and Procedures

As part of the BIA, the questionnaire should uncover what workaround and recovery plans already exist, so that they can be incorporated into the business continuity plan or disaster recovery plan that would be developed once the BIA has been completed. The important sections and what should be covered in each are described in the following sections.

Management Summary

As is typical in a technical report, this section should be one to two pages long, highlighting the principal findings and recommendations from the full report. Because of the length of this section, charts and graphs should be kept to a minimum, or not used at all. The Management Summary should contain enough information to give management a good idea of the full contents of the report, and what actions need to be taken. The reader can then go to the full report to get any details that were not included in the summary.

It is always good to put the financial Findings and Recommendations near the beginning of this section, together with a small table to illustrate them, because financial impacts are nearly always management’s primary concern. For example:

MANAGEMENT SUMMARY1

Priority

Financial Impact

After One Day

Financial Impact

After One Month

Critical Function

1

$100,000 or more

$10 million or more

Yes

2

$1 to $99,999

$100,000 to $9.99 million

No

3

None

None to $99,999

No

1The book this is excerpted from is actually Business Resumption Planning, Second Edition © 2009 by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Edited by Leo A. Wrobel.

Assumptions

This is a very important section. You need to list all assumptions made in the analysis, such as: “The information and data returned in the BIA questionnaire is accurate and complete,” or “All dollars used in analyzing Canadian Accounting financials were converted from Canadian to U.S. dollars.”

Findings

As the name implies, this section should contain all the information gleaned from the analysis of the data supplied (see Figure 1). We recommend subdividing this section into the various categories used in the BIA questionnaire. Leave all Recommendations Based on these Findings for the next section.

    The financial impact to XYZ Company after a disaster approximately doubles for the first three days after the disaster, increases significantly after one week of being out of service, and even more significantly after two weeks.

Figure 1 Findings of the report

Recommendations

Here you can tell the client’s management all the things that you recommend that they do to remedy any problems you have uncovered in the analysis. Most, but not all, of these recommendations will apply to the development of a business continuity plan or disaster recovery plan. Liberal use of charts, tables, and diagrams should be used here because, much better than verbiage, they convey the impact of the report, particularly the Findings.

Appendices

The appendix(es) should contain any data too detailed to include in the body of the report, and can contain copies of all the data collected from the questionnaires (see Figure 2). That way, if someone reading the report questions any findings, he or she can verify that the data was accurately interpreted.

Figure 2 Financial Accounting appendix

Present Findings and Recommendations

Present Findings and Recommendations

Once your preliminary BIA findings have been completed, it is time to produce the executive presentation. It will contain your findings, recommendations, and resource request.

Quite often, the attendees at this presentation include the involved vice president, his or her direct reports, and any other management or technical personnel directly involved in the project or requested to be present by management.

This presentation should be limited to one hour maximum, and it should highlight the major findings and recommendations in your BIA report. In most cases, management’s major concerns are financial, so you should devote a significant amount of time in your presentation to cover this. You should also set aside enough time to answer questions that are sure to arise.

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