This month, we're debunking some common myths about disaster recovery strategies. Last time, we discussed how tape backups are rarely sufficient as a company's sole DR solution. This time, let's focus on a popular misconception that the IT department can properly handle business continuity planning (BCP) on its own.
Many companies make the mistake of placing the entire responsibility for creating, maintaining, and carrying out BCP squarely on the shoulders of its IT pros. While IT should obviously play an integral role in the BCP process, organizations shouldn't expect the IT department to serve as the sole caretaker of their continuity plans.
An enterprise often falls prey to the inaccurate assumption that a purely technical solution can provide everything necessary for its technology infrastructure to recover from a disaster. While this belief is partially true, the IT department typically requires the assistance of other departments within the organization to ensure the DR plan will work effectively.
Of course, a company should decide which departments to involve with BCP according to its own particular needs. However, in most cases, it's a best practice to include two groups from the very start: facilities management and human resources.
Your organization's facilities management staff needs to be responsible before, during, and after a disaster for multiple aspects of BCP. During the planning process, you need to decide on a specific location to store backup tapes and data replicas, and you should determine potential areas to set up recovery hardware and furniture as well as other durable goods that will facilitate recovery efforts.
During a disaster, facilities management must make sure employees can get where they need to go, that they have what they need to work, and that they can get back to the production facility after the disaster. Without this group of people, it's a good possibility you'll have a great technology failover plan--and nowhere to implement it.
The HR department needs to make sure you'll be able to properly allocate staff, both within the technology departments and throughout the organization. HR should ensure that you have the appropriate staff to implement and manage the DR technical solutions, and it should also make sure you have adequate staff in the proper locations to manage the actual disaster.
In addition, HR should be the unit responsible for keeping the organization's employees and management informed about what to do in case of emergency, where to report to resume work, and how to stay in contact.
Failure to include these two groups in your organization's BCP process will make life extra difficult if you ever need to enact these plans. Keep in mind that these are just the minimum groups to include; according to your particular circumstances, you may want to include a number of other departments. In any case, it's important to remember that IT shouldn't be on its own when it comes to BCP.
Mike Talon is an IT consultant and freelance journalist who has worked for both traditional businesses and dot-com startups.