COVID-19 demonstrates the need for disaster recovery and business continuity plans

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The coronavirus may put organizations at risk through short staffing or unavailable workers and services, but disaster recovery and business continuity plans can help sustain business operations.

Disaster Plan written on a blackboard and notepads.

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The need for a disaster recovery business continuity plan  is becoming more critical as the enterprise adjusts to the business disruptions caused by the coronavirus.  
 
No, a virus in and of itself can't shut your company's systems, operations, or services down, but it can impact how a business functions, especially if people are quarantined at home or too sick to work or experience a network outage or other disruption.

SEE: Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plan (TechRepublic Premium)
 
It's not often that businesses face a pandemic, but natural disasters, man-made disasters, security threats (such as a malware attack), and an outage are a reality, and if businesses want to ensure a smooth recovery process and continuity of operations, it is critical that they do a risk assessment and develop a recovery services strategy with disaster recovery and business continuity plans.
 
How can an organization ensure that business processes will recover? How can businesses ensure data backup plans or recover lost data? What safeguards and safety procedures can they implement for their employees?
 
Further, during a major disaster, vendor technical representatives may not be able to get on site to repair devices which need maintenance, and even the supply lines to receive parts or materials may be adversely impacted. 

SEE: Business Continuity Policy (TechRepublic Premium)
 
Businesses may also face other business disruptions such as network outages, revenue loss, data loss, security vulnerabilities and threats, and stifled productivity, to name a few examples.
 
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that "roughly 40% to 60% of small businesses never reopen their doors following a disaster." 
 
But this doesn't have to happen when a proper disaster recovery and business continuity plan is in place. 

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FEMA urges a business to focus on IT redundancy (I recommend multiple systems in multiple sites which are set up in either an active/active or active/passive configuration so long as the latter involves automated controls in the event of a failure), maintaining important records and business processes, and building a cache of emergency supplies.
 
In addition, business continuity plans should include provisions for workers as well as systems. To prepare, companies should invest money and time in the following resources to help ensure a smooth recovery process following any type of natural or man-made disaster:

  • Continuity of business operations: Implement remote access infrastructure that are capable of supporting the entire workforce (VPN devices, high-speed internet lines to the organization, laptops and/or on-site servers to host user connections).
  • Ensure resources are available: Ensure proper access to necessary resources at the office even when workers are remote (This may mean needing additional firewall rules to permit VPN users to get to the systems; often these rules are separate from what exists on-site).
  • Keep employees online: Offer mobile hotspots for remote internet access in case employees lose power or don't have available connectivity.
  • Ensure constant communication: Educate users on how to access resources and make available the instructions and contact information for them to request technology assistance. This material should be accessible offline, as well, in case they can't connect to the company networks.

SEE: Business Continuity Policy (TechRepublic Premium)
 
Workers should also be planning advance for a major disaster by establishing the following best practices:

  • A comfortable and quiet space to work from home (a dedicated office is optimal; sitting on the couch with a laptop while the kids watch Netflix is not).
  • Routine, periodic testing of remote access.
  • The habit of changing passwords as needed and ensuring these are stored securely via a password manager such as KeePass, because nothing hampers remote work efforts like a forgotten or expired password. 

For more information check out the Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plan as well the Business Continuity Policy, both of which are available to subscribers on TechRepublic Premium.
 

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