We’ve all seen the news reports, photos, and tragic stories of towns and businesses impacted by natural disasters. Business professionals who are forced to deal with the aftermath of a natural disaster may experience a range of emotions from relief that it’s over and that they had a disaster recovery plan in place to regret that their disaster recovery plan was inadequate or incomplete, or to despair that they never got around to developing a disaster recovery plan at all.
Disasters and how we respond to them are never one-and-done. In the real world, disaster planning for the next disruption begins immediately after going through an actual disaster event. This means that the weeks and months immediately following a disaster are the most crucial for evaluating and improving your disaster recovery plan. Aside from the site recovery itself, which may be considerable, it is essential to address deficiencies in your plan as soon as possible and practical. For critical communications, these could include data transmission, materials being redirected, or updates to design that were never shared with the disaster recovery provider.
Things That Can Come Between Your Recovery Provider and a Full Recovery
As a client’s business partner for print-to-mail disaster recovery, Mail-Gard is diligent about documenting these issues or gaps that are discovered during a declaration. We keep those open issues at the forefront, but we can’t always fix them without client participation.
The longer it takes for the client to address the needed changes, the more difficult it becomes to get back up to speed. As time goes by, client personnel changes can also occur, which can mean practically starting the project over with people not directly experienced with the disaster and/or the plan. New changes on top of the previous ones not yet updated in the disaster recovery plan just muddy the water further.
Schedule Updates Between Disasters
Even when they’re still dealing with the fallout from a disaster, making improvements to a disaster recovery plan should always be a priority for businesses that rely on print and mail communications. In fact, a comprehensive plan should already include a regular schedule for updates/upgrades and contain schedule provisions to deal with issues brought to light during the declaration process.
At Mail-Gard, we recommend that clients who experience a disaster set a target goal of 90 days following the disaster to address needed improvements. Corrections or improvements are better dealt with when the issues are still fresh in everyone’s mind.
What Elements of Your Disaster Recovery Plan Change in the Wake of a Disaster?
The client’s actual recovery requirements, including applications and components, are by far the most common element that needs to be updated after going through a real disaster. Clients will frequently contract Mail-Gard to test only for their most critical applications, betting on the hope that a disaster will be short-lived. If the disaster recovery is longer than expected, Mail-Gard may be asked to recover additional applications which we’ve never seen before and are therefore outside the scope of the contract. While we take pride in adapting to our client’s needs, there’s still a learning curve that can affect the service-level agreement (SLA).
In addition, changes to components, design, and other surprise factors are a fact of life—which is why we use our Change Management tool to help us stay up-to-date with client requirements, with every exercise. However, for changes that occur between one exercise and the next, we’re dependent on the client updating us with those changes, and sometimes we don’t know about the changes until a disaster has been declared.
What We Know, You Know
Mail-Gard provides daily production update meetings with the client during an active disaster to discuss the status of the recovery as well as action items for resolution. Upon completion of the disaster recovery, we hold a post-mortem conference to discuss all aspects of the recovery and follow up with a disaster recovery report detailing all issues that need attention. These action items are documented and revisited during ongoing exercises so that we’re aware of the client’s disaster recovery plan status as well.
The main benefit of having a successful print-to-mail disaster recovery plan is to protect the company, employees, and stakeholders from financial risk—and that concern is just as strong after a disaster as it is before.
For the skeptical few that question the need and cost of the disaster recovery plan, a successful recovery proves its own worth. If the recovery has a few weak spots, though, it’s vital to shore up your defenses ASAP―after all, do YOU know when the next disaster is coming?
To talk about your plan or the need to develop one, contact me here.
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