Yes, but does it work?

Yes, but does it work?

So you have an emergency response plan, a crisis management plan as well as a set of business continuity plans and know how to get the business up and running? It’s all just “on paper” unless it is regularly, and rigorously, tested.

By Willem Olivier, GM: Africa, ContinuitySA

My first two blogs looked at why it’s important to know how your organisation will respond to an emergency and then get back on its feet, and how to ensure you have a fall-black facility where your staff can work if necessary.

Now for the third question you need to ask—and answer satisfactorily:

Are we sure our crisis and business continuity management plans actually work?  

Planning is vital, desktop simulations are great but, in the end, you need to schedule regular “real” tests of crises to give your people a chance of experiencing what a crisis is like, and whether those carefully thought out plans actually work. There are always things you never thought of, and unexpected glitches.

For example, does everybody have the passwords they need and the links to sites they use regularly? Do you have the specialised equipment your business might depend on at the recovery site, such as is needed to deal with paper-based claim forms? Will staff who depend on public transport be able to get there? Does the recovery site have enough bandwidth? Is there a PABX and does everybody know the extension numbers of colleagues? Are your systems between production and DR in sync with regards to software versions? The latter being one of the most common mistakes in ensuring a working recovery solution and also one of the most mistakes made in IT recovery solutions.

Regular tests are the only way to find all this out, and then care has to be taken to feed the results back into the business continuity plan.

As our experience at ContinuitySA has shown, time and again, organisations that have invested time in planning, and done the testing in partnership with experts, can respond to an emergency effectively. As important, we can restore their business processes quickly enough to ensure they continue to be viable.

The alternative is too dreadful to contemplate!