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Volume 29, Issue 5

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One of the most important aspects of Business Continuity Planning is designing & maintaining the plan document. This seemingly simple task is not only important, but all too often it is very time consuming. By selecting the right product before you start designing your plan, you can save yourself a lot of time and headaches. The biggest confusion when evaluating software tools is that they all seem to do the same thing, or that one product seems to be just as good as another. This checklist will help you identify key areas for consideration when evaluating Business Continuity Planning software.


1. Can unit plans be rolled-up into a master plan in an orderly structure? (i.e., there’s a fire in the building and you need to relocate affected areas...can you get summations of equipment, chairs, desks, PCs, phones, etc., for the affected areas only?)
2. Can unit plans be individually printed during a test or disruption? (i.e., there’s a telecommunications event that disrupts your Customer Service department in various states...can only your Customer Service DRP be printed, regardless of location?)
3. Will all subordinate plans be included in a single plan execution? (i.e., the building is inaccessible; you execute the “building plan” and get all “subordinate” plans, instead of being forced to execute each plan individually.)
4. Is the software database driven? (i.e., plan development is accomplished primarily through data entry screens, and data is stored in a database, instead of word processor.)


5. Can the product be populated with data resident on another system? (i.e., you want to enter employees from the HR system, and your vendors from Purchasing system; is there an import capability so you don’t have to perform data entry?)
6. Will imported data be reflected in the product’s audit-history sub-system?
7. Does system prevent accidental import duplication?
8. Can the import function handle changes and deletions as well as additions?
9. Are “exception” reports provided to tell you about any data import errors?


10. Can field names be easily customized to fit your terminology? (i.e., say a field name is “Alternate Phone” and you want it to read “Beeper” or “Cellular”; can the field name be easily changed?)
11. Can the tool bar icon description be customized?
12. Can the order of the plan output be customized for execution? (i.e., if you’ve determined you want your call list first, your list of critical applications by priority second, tasks and procedures third, etc., can you customize order of output?)


13. Is there a single-user version of the product that can operate on either a stand-alone PC or on a file server?
14. Is there a multi-user LAN version available?
15. In the multi-user LAN version, can multiple people access the same data table/file simultaneously? (i.e., does the system perform record level locking so that users A, B,
and C can all be in the employee database editing and/or printing at the same time?)
16. Does the LAN version operate in a number of LAN environments? (i.e., Novell, Banyon, Lan Manager, etc.)


17. Does the system have multiple levels of security?
18. Does the system require user ID/login security?
19. Does the system have recovery plan level security? (i.e., Finance can’t edit MIS’ plan.)
20. Does the system offer access security into different areas/functions of the tool? (i.e., can you can lock out some users from editing or printing plans, from performing any customization to product, from accessing administrative tools, etc.)
21. Can security profiles for various users be easily duplicated? (i.e., Users on the LAN have the same level of security, the only difference is the plan each can edit—one security profile can be created once and duplicated as necessary.)
22. Can a user be denied access to major data editing capabilities? (i.e., Move, Replace, Global Delete.)
23. Can an individual user change his/her password without requiring access to Security?


24. Does the system have an audit-history subsystem?
25. Does audit-history provide a before-and-after image of transaction performed? (i.e., does it show if this transaction was an add, a change or a deletion; if it was a change, does it show how the record looked before and after the transaction.)
26. Does audit-history identify/track the user performing the transaction?
27. Does audit-history stamp a date and time on every transaction?
28. Can the audit reports be printed?
29. Can you restore data from the audit-history subsystem?


30. Does the system interface to any Windows or DOS-based word processor? (i.e., you may or may not have standardized on a particular word processor - can the system be adapted to fit your needs?)
31. Can you use your own text documents instead of those included with the system?


32. Does the system come with standard reports?
33. Can you edit standard reports? (i.e., change the contents, style, and typeface.)
34. Are custom reporting capabilities available?
35. Can summations of equipment, supplies, employees, etc., be performed?
36. Can recovery plan data be sorted in any order? (i.e., alphabetically, numerically, ascending/descending, by zip code, etc.?)
37. Can you determine the search criteria for each report?
38. Can only portions of the plan be printed? (i.e., allows for the generation and printing of individual plan reports.)
39. Can reports be printed to the screen for online viewing before printing?
40. Can reports be printed or exported to a file?
41. If reports can be exported to a file, can the type of file be specified? (i.e., WordPerfect, Word, Lotus 1-2-3, Excel.)
42. If the type of file is specified, will the report be placed in the correct format? (i.e., will headers be placed in the header section of the word processing document.)
43. Can reports be sent directly through your MAPI e-mail system? (i.e., if you have the report on your screen, can you click a button and have it sent directly through your mail system?
44. Can previously created charts and diagrams be linked into your plan using OLE 2.0?


45. Is there hypertext help with the system? (i.e., can the user “jump” from one help topic to another.)
46. Is there context-sensitive help with the system? (i.e., when the user hits the Help key, does the system bring up help that is pertinent to the section or feature that was being used?)
47. Is there a “search” shortcut option under the Help menu bar so you can go directly to the help you need?
48. Is there an on-line “How To” Guide on building a recovery plan?
49. If yes, can this recovery planning guide be printed by each user?


50. Does the system offer flexibility in plan design? (i.e., even if system is based on a specific methodology...does it allow for variation and flexibility instead of rigid adherence to the plan’s methodology?)


51. Does the system have the ability to move information from one plan to another? (i.e., when employees change departments; can you easily move them into different plans?)
52. Does the system have the ability to “selectively” replace one employee’s team assignments and management positions with another’s? (i.e., if employee A is laid off or promoted, can employee B be easily assigned employee A’s responsibilities?)
53. When performing a global delete, are all relationships associated with that record also removed? (i.e., if a department is eliminated and you want to delete that plan, can you do a global delete of everything associated with that plan?)


54. Is the first year of maintenance services included with software?
55. Is the maintenance fee 15% or less thereafter?
56. Does vendor provide toll-free technical support within the U.S.?
57. Is toll-free technical support available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to all users?
58. Is free training included with software?
59. Is free “hands-on” training available during evaluation stages?
60. Does vendor provide training for unlimited personnel at no charge?
61. Are product updates and enhancements free under active maintenance?


62. Can the vendor provide at least ten (10) references with contact names and phone number?
63. Does the vendor staff include Certified Business Recovery Planning consultants?
64. Is Business Recovery Planning software the Vendor’s principal line of business?

Dora Riano is employed with Strohl Systems.