Most contingency plans today are developed for recovery purposes only. Generally, this means that only high priority functions and bare minimum needs for the recovery process are contained in the plan. This is the logical approach since contingency planning is preparing for an emergency or disaster situation where recovery, not replacement, is the main objective. However, for most corporations and businesses, this only covers half of the needs during the difficult and sometimes lengthy process of getting back to “Business As Usual”.
Most contingency plan manuals will list minimal (key) personnel, furniture, equipment, supplies, accompanied by offsite storage materials and recovery action plans. Reciprocal agreements, Hot-Cold- Shell Site contracts, telecommunications backup, and vendor support usually accompany the manual to make up the bulk of most contingency plans. However, as any company who has experienced an actual emergency or disaster can tell you, at some point-in-time you must move back to either a new site or your former site once the cleanup work is completed. If there is no plan for this portion of the emergency recovery process, when an emergency occurs, you may find yourself spending more time and money than necessary to complete the transition back home.
Hot Site occupations are very expensive, and even though most companies have either Business Interruption or Extra Expense Insurance to cover these costs during an emergency, the coverage may not be enough to handle all of the costs involved, especially for long duration occupations. Daily Hot Site usage fees for an IBM 3081K run approximately $10,000 per day. Combine these costs with telecommunications charges, charter jet and ground transportation, hotel and per diem expenses for alternate site personnel, and airfare expenses and the cost of doing business away from home multiplies rapidly with each day that passes. Once you have performed an approximate cost analysis for an emergency alternate site occupation, you will understand the need to minimize, through planning, the amount of time that your company will occupy the site.
The best way to approach this type of contingency planning is by separating your plan into two distinct phases. The first phase is the Recovery Phase; emphasizing minimal requirements to stay in business. The second phase is the Resurgent Phase; which primarily deals with complete replacement of all facets of the business to the level they were prior to the emergency. There can be any number of phases in your plan, however, Recovery and Resurgent phases will likely be the largest and most critical.
The Recovery Phase has been outlined fairly well in many previous articles, User conferences and classes, and can be developed through the use of many disaster recovery software packages now on the market. One area which I feel needs clarification concerning the Recovery Phase is what is meant by “minimal needs.” When discussing “minimal needs” with Department Managers and Emergency Team Leaders, can you be sure that they all perceive “minimal needs” to mean the least you can get by with and still maintain a high level of service to the User and the customer, or is there perception simply the least you can get by with? In a recent department plan review, I asked a department manager if the list of equipment that he had drafted for emergency recovery could, when operational, maintain the same level of service that he was currently providing to his User. He replied; “No, but in an emergency situation we couldn’t expect to get all the equipment we would need, especially on such short notice!”. My reply was; “Maybe not, but you certainly won’t get it if you don’t ask for it!”. Minimal needs simply means cutting out the non-essential personnel, materials, equipment, etc. that do not play an important role in the daily business processes. It is very likely that many items, especially vendor exclusive equipment, will be hard to obtain during an emergency. However, it is better to be prepared to request everything that you will need to maintain your customer base rather than to risk losing business simply because you didn’t ask for what you needed.
The Resurgent Phase is primarily a list of fixed assets which can be drafted in very much the same format as the documents that make up the Recovery Phase. Floor plans, equipment and furniture lists, electrical and telecommunication needs, supplies, etc. will help your Facilities Department immensely with the process of rebuilding your data center, corporate offices, or in the planning for the acquisition of a new structure. In an emergency situation, time is money just as it is in the normal daily business world. If we as contingency planners can plan and test for the “knowns” of emergency situations, then we will be better equipped to handle the inevitable “unknowns” when they occur. After all, a contingency plan is merely a methodology that leads the way to an expedient return to “Business As Usual”.
This article was written by Don Edwards, the Contingency Planner Coordinator for Puget Sound Bank in Washington State.
This article adapted from Vol. 2 No. 3, p. 36.