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Volume 31, Issue 2

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DRJ | The premiere resource for business continuity and disaster recovery

2016 Budget Planning

Across companies both large and small, leadership teams have started to allocate budgets for 2016. A vast portion of the budget will be spent on keeping operations running, some will be allocated to future value-add projects and some will be set aside to protect the business mission against ever-increasing threats.


2015 has been a year filled with high-profile cases of security breaches, with dating website Ashley Madison being one of the latest big-name companies to come under cyberattack. Personal customer details were stolen from the website and released into the public domain, causing both reputational and financial damage to the Ashley Madison brand and even more so to its customers.

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How Far Away Should Your Disaster Recovery Site Be?

Originally posted on Rentsys Recovery Services' blog.

The question "How far away should my primary data center be from my disaster recovery (DR) site?" has plagued DR planners for years. Companies first began seriously examining the role distance plays in DR after 9/11, when the attacks on the Twin Towers caused a large portion of Manhattan to shut down and all the recovery vendor sites filled to capacity.

Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer to this question. Some suggest locating the backup site at least two FEMA-defined regions away, but most people shy away from setting firm guidelines measured in miles.

Instead, the geography should be dictated by the risks related to your organization’s business processes, data and physical location (a business impact analysis should reveal what these risks are). Once you’re aware of the risks you face, you can weigh the benefits and drawbacks of nearby and distant DR sites.

Nearby Disaster Recovery Site

A nearby DR site is beneficial for a variety of reasons. It’s within driving distance, making it easily accessible. If your DR site is nearby and is unaffected by an incident affecting your primary location, you can continue business operations more quickly than if your DR site were hundreds of miles away. In addition, the bandwidth costs are less, and you’re not as likely to experience significant system recovery delays due to latency issues.

However, the benefit of having a DR site within driving distance depends on the locale's risks. If your region is prone to hurricanes, earthquakes or floods, having a DR site in the same region can be risky. For instance, Hurricane Sandy was 1,100 miles in diameter — that’s more than a third of the continental United States. In regional disasters like this, your DR site could be affected by the same event as your primary facility, rendering it useless.

On the other hand, Spokane, WA is a geologically stable area whose biggest threats are wildfire and train derailment. Many businesses in these areas are comfortable with a nearby DR site as long as the site is on a different power grid.

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Refresh your Business Disaster Preparedness Kit

By Mijee Dirks, Global Strategy Leader, IBM Resiliency Services

It’s that time of year when we dig out our family hurricane emergency kits for their annual refresh.  If your family is anything like mine, you are discarding expired food that sat in the garage for the last year, refreshing water supplies, and making sure you haven’t borrowed all of the batteries out of the kit for kid’s toys last Christmas.  We do this annual hurricane kit refresh easily, barely thinking about it, because we have done it so many times before. 

Now ask yourself – when is the last time you refreshed your business’s “Disaster Preparedness Kit”?   Key “supplies” in our business Disaster Preparedness Kits should be also refreshed regularly.  For most companies, this is at least annually or at any time there is a business or IT trigger.  Some examples of triggers are when a new critical application is implemented, or when another critical business process is added to the company.

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Where are we now? How do we move forward?

One of two cornerstones of the National Academy of Arts and Science.

The weekend of August 28th marked the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, an event so significant that the practice of emergency management by the federal government was changed forever.  August 28th  marked the 54th anniversary of the March on Washington where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous "I have a dream" speech.  It marked also the 60th anniversary of the vicious murder of a Chicago boy, Emmett Till, when he visited relatives in the South and whistled at a white woman.  On August 26th, a TV reporter and cameraman were shot dead in the head on a morning news program by a killer who then posted video of the murders to social media.  In a 23 page suicide note, the only thing that the murderer left out of his message was the similarity to ISIS acts of terror that also take place in living color and then get posted to social media sites.

While the federal government has completely reshaped its responses to disasters, we can't really pat ourselves on the back where equality and justice that Reverend King was looking for is concerned.  The situation has never been worse in this country where distrust and anger are concerned, and the gap continues to increase between those who have and those who do not.

The situation appears intolerable also where gun control and mental health proposals go unfunded and unapproved.  The National Rifle Association (NRA) continues to have a lock hold on our elected officials where even the simplest forms of information sharing are concerned -- registering guns and sales of guns in such a way that federal and state police databases are interlocked to detect those with criminal or mental health histories.  Why is this passing bare bones legislation that could trap for lowest hanging fruit so difficult?  What do we need to do to be heard?

The interior cornerstone at the National Academy of Arts and Science.

The worst of it in all this is that each episode seems to set off more disturbed people in what are called copycat events.  Just as those who ride trains every day are probably now more aware of their environments after the events of last weekend on the Amsterdam-Paris train, I suspect that every news person will feel their own heightened anxiety for at least the next several months.

Given the flammable nature of public discourse on so many issues these days, especially with presidential politics starting make things worse, I would suggest that we need to find new ways to move the discussion on gun violence forward, to see if it is possible to affect real change on this issue and on the issues involving equality and justice as well.

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Career Planning for the Business Continuity Professional


If you’ve read other blogs I have written, either for LinkedIn or on my website www.peacebusinesscontinuity.com  you’re aware that I have a high regard for the field of business continuity and disaster recovery planning and for those who labor therein.  For me it has been a rewarding career of learning and doing and, most of the time, been great fun.  I have been very fortunate that many new opportunities have come along and I’ve been able to take advantage of them, move up the ladder, and take on the roles of subject matter expert as a consultant to interesting clients and as a mentor to many new to the field.  In this blog I’d like to pass on some ideas about expanding one’s career within the field and also using it as a springboard into other endeavors.  For those who wish to remain in the field, I recommend the following:


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One Thing Your Cloud Provider Could Be Missing

Originally posted on Rentsys Recovery Services' blog.
Your cloud solution could be missing something. We’re not talking about bandwidth, security or service level agreements (though these things are all important). We’re talking about customer service. 

Often businesses evaluating potential cloud vendors are focused so much on tech specs that they don’t think about the matter of interacting with the vendor after the contract is signed. Sometimes this isn’t an issue if you’ve chosen a good provider. Other times, however, you might find that getting the support you need is like pulling teeth.
The following three categories can help you identify if a potential service provider will be a help or hindrance to meeting your data and application management goals.
Listening Skills
Are the cloud provider’s representatives trying to sell you services you don’t need, or are they dedicated to helping you build a backup solution that’s right for you? To get the most value out of your cloud solution, you need to make sure you’re not paying for products and services that you won’t use or that don’t do what you need them to.
Technical Assistance
What type of technical assistance does the provider offer? Support options could include self-service, phone support, on-site, in-house, outsourced or a combination.
It’s also important to know when assistance is available. Is the support provider — whether it be your vendor or a third party — only available during business hours? Is the company in the same time zone as you? Be sure to find out what level of support to expect and make sure you’re comfortable with it.
Technician Certifications
Knowing who will be offering your support can be almost as important as knowing the type of support you’ll receive. If you’re using a managed cloud service, are the people who will be handling your data certified engineers? Even if you manage your own data, will you have access to qualified help desk agents to resolve any issues?

Working with the right vendor can make a world of difference in how effective your cloud solution is for your business. To read more about best practices for implementing a cloud solution, read this post.
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Freight Trains and Chemical Spills: How to Prepare Your Business

Originally posted on Rentsys Recovery Services' blog.

At the beginning of this month, a train carrying the flammable, toxic chemical acrylonitrile partly derailed and caught fire near Knoxville, TN, forcing 5,000 people to vacate the area.

A few days later, July 6, marked the two-year anniversary of the oil train derailment and subsequent explosions in Lac-Mégantic, QC, which killed 47 and forced 2,000 people to evacuate their homes.

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11 Questions to Include in Your IT Vendor Due Diligence

Originally posted on Rentsys Recovery Services' blog.

Outsourced IT is nothing new, but as Verizon Wireless’s recent report "Better Outcomes for IT Outsourcing" points out, digital transformation is changing the face of outsourcing. Customers want flexible service delivery models, ways to improve inefficient processes and spending models based on opex versus capex.

But with the rise of cybersecurity issues, tightly wound supply chains and customer expectations for always-on service, you need to make sure that any vendor with access to your data and systems is fully vetted. Before you involve any third party in your IT processes, make sure you know the answers to these questions:

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Response and Recovery the Importance of Keeping Up to Date

Walk into almost any office, ask if they’ve got a response and recovery plan, and they’ll often point to a dusty shelf and tell you that yes they do. Next, ask them when their response and recovery plan was last updated. Chances are they won’t be able to reply with the same amount of certainty.

Despite businesses being aware that there are an increasing number of threats to their valuable data, often their response and recovery plans are outdated and don’t reflect technological change.

In this year’s Business Continuity Institute Horizon Scan survey , it was noted that cyber-attacks are now the top threat facing businesses, with 82 per cent of survey participants expressing their concern about them. With the repercussions of a cyber-attack being as significant as they are, it’s more important than ever that your disaster response and recovery plan is kept reassessed and updated on a regular basis.

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Readiness Best Practices: Effective Risk Assessment

In creating business continuity plans, every organization completes a series of risk assessment exercises. Without this general risk assessment, it would be impossible to prioritize what BCM plans are needed. Which disruptive events are most likely to impact your business? Your employees? Your clients? Your suppliers? Research suggests the top 10 risks tackled by business continuity teams include:

  1. Severe Weather
  2. IT Issues (outages, breach, virus…)
  3. Power Outages
  4. Natural disaster (flood, earthquake)
  5. Physical Violence
  6. Fire
  7. Epidemic
  8. Product delivery/quality
  9. Scandal/reputation
  10. Theft

Clearly some sub-set of these event types should be addressed in any business continuity planning effort. Today’s goal, however, is not to discuss this high level risk assessment process, but rather, to review best practices for evaluating a specific threat as it arises to determine if it merits activation of BCM teams and plans.

Monitoring Early Warning Signs

Effective event-specific risk assessment is to have some early warning detection in place. To best manage unplanned incidents, it helps to have visibility into the potential disruptions before they occur. Obviously, certain types of disruptive events are more easily monitored than others. Weather, for example, can be monitored closely via the National Weather Service, Accuweather and other sources. Most major storms are predicted in advance, enabling close monitoring by BCM teams. Similarly, floods and fire warnings are often weather-related and threat levels can be monitored closely.

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Influencing the Future

I like to tell the story about a client who could not understand why I would honor a commitment to teach rather than give the firm more hours in order to make more money. "Why would you want to do that?" he asked. I answered that I could reach more people interested in what I had to say and at the same time influence the next generation of risk leaders.


I continue to write books and articles and accept public speaking engagements for similar reasons. Translating concepts and ideas into action is as relevant in the corporate world as it is in the classroom, where theories and frameworks from textbooks are blended with examples of risk from the real world. The examples of financial loss from poor risk management are plentiful. And since the field of risk management is so new, frameworks and standards continue to evolve. Staying right on the cutting edge of thought and practice is a priority.

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Quick Disaster Recovery Tips for IT

Speedy! What do you consider when you hear the word 'disaster'? A great many people think about a tremor, a storm, or even some national cataclysm. As these sorts of disasters are to some degree phenomenal, they do happen. In any case, with the end goal of this article, "disaster" has a much more extensive significance and subsequently is significantly more normal of an event. For the rest of this post, a disaster is any occasion that causes both of the accompanying: 

  • The demolition of all online operational copies of an association's information and/or applications. "Online operational copies" incorporate both the creation copies and any prepared to-run reinforcement copies that can be put in the generation part promptly and, ideally, consistently 
  • The loss of access to all online operational copies of the association's information and/or applications for a sufficiently long stretch, such that a recovery operation will be quicker and more practical than sitting tight for the online operational copies to return on the web. 
  • In the case of a characteristic disaster or national cataclysm, the association's first target is to guarantee the insurance and well being of the individuals in hurt's way; once this goal is accomplished, or if the individuals have not been set at further hazard by the circumstance, the most astounding need undertaking of the IT office is to get the business-discriminating frameworks running again as fast as could be expected under the circumstances. Any disappointments to resume operations can and will aggravate the impacts of the disaster and debilitate the survival of the said association. Basically expressed: disaster recovery is particularly essential! 

I recall route back when if a customer required a specific recording from our outsider check office we didn't have the one they were searching for! We had each other one they required for that day, however there was that one a couple of times that we essentially couldn't discover for reasons unknown. Murphy's Law strikes constantly be prepared for it-arrange ahead and take after these snappy recovery tips: 

  • Maintain off-site information reinforcements keeping in mind the end goal to minimize recovery times in circumstances where the physical resources of the essential focus are still operational, reinforcement information documents must be accessible on mainly put away tapes; a far reaching tape chronicle is vital. Keeping up a forward library of information on tapes is justified regardless of any expense to your organization. 
  • Inventory all IT resources keeping in mind the end goal to rapidly and effectively recuperate anything, you should first comprehend what needs to be recouped. On the off chance that you at present don't have a stock of both substantial and elusive resources, make one now-well, don't quit perusing this, however you get the thought. You require a point by point stock of equipment, programming, information, and so on that needs to be recuperated and show them regarding need so your group is not left pondering where to start the methodology. 
  • Never leave remain solitary information from the management business-discriminating information and docs are progressively being put away onto tablets and desktop PC drives; your information recovery management ought to fuse subtle elements on how this particular information will be moved down and recouped first. Remember that a tablet or desktop PC can likewise be lost in the same disaster; make a point to keep their information put away offsite also. 
  • Formally report the management. A disaster recovery arrange for that exists just in somebody's mind is no management by any means. While we'd rather not consider the possibility of genuine harm or passing, its conceivable that some key representatives won't be accessible after the disaster. They may be out of town and generally inaccessible amid a recovery operation. In the event that the recovery management exists just in those individuals' heads, the remaining staff won't have the capacity to execute it. Despite the fact that it might be conceivable to mechanize the start of some recovery methods and utilize the framework to authorize the fulfillment of agendas, its vital to keep printed version printed copies of the recovery arrange in different secure areas, including at the recovery site. An management for restarting the association's frameworks that is bolted inside an application that is occupied will be pointless when the time comes to launch the recovery operations. 
  • Test your management I used to be an IT enrollment specialist and large portions of the hopefuls I met with had incredible 'book smarts' regardless needed in certifiable circumstances. Indeed, the same remains constant with your surroundings discussing what may happen and what really happens are two unique creatures. In any complex framework or procedure, what meets expectations in principle regularly fizzles by and by. Opportune testing not just guarantees that the recovery management is suitable, additionally goes about as a vital preparing toll for your staff-both IT and non-IT. Careful discipline brings about promising results has never been more genuine of an announcement. 
  • Do not disregard security-commonly, keeping in mind the end goal to get up and running rapidly, numerous IT offices will spurn their ordinary security conventions: as a rule, this is a terrible thought. Sooner or later and time, your association created security managements and strategies and bypassing them now, may build the starting dangers. Likewise, please store all passwords and other touchy data offsite; they will render themselves futile on the off chance that they are at a site that is unavailable. 
  • Ask for help-when making a DR management, guarantee that you counsel with other people who have encountered the same (or near to) the same circumstance and that you take point by point notes when talking with them. The individuals who have been through this catastrophe can offer all the more continuous experience and conceivable managements that both worked and fizzled for them-their experience can turn into your 'experience'. 
  • Last considerations as experienced and fight tried as your IT group may be, you ought to dependably search out an outside hotspot for shooting gaps into your management; this may be a stun to your inner self, however would you rather have a pariah show your imperfections before the disaster brings you down or have them demonstrate to you industry standards to flawless your answer? Your call, boss!

For more information about business continuity management and plannings visit: www.bcmconsultingservices.com

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Reputation Management Crisis Lessons from Secret Service

Imagine being U.S. Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy. It’s only been a little over a month since he was appointed permanently to the top position at the Secret Service on February 18, and he’s facing yet another scandal the likes of which caused his predecessor, Julia Pierson, to resign under pressure last fall.

When news agencies blast headlines such as CNN’s “Gate-crashing agents make 4 Secret Service scandals in 3 years,” you know you have a reputation management crisis that requires immediate attention.

Lawmakers Scrutinize the Secret Service Following Recent Blunders
In our 24/7 news and social media cycle, the top Secret Service gaffes that received the most media coverage and congressional scrutiny included:

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Readiness Best Practices: The Importance of Drills

It’s a fact, business continuity management (BCM) programs that consistently perform well-orchestrated drills get better results when dealing with real crisis situations.

Practice Makes Perfect

Running practice drills is a key role for any business continuity program leader.  Drafting BCM plans and making sure they work effectively in a true emergency are two wildly different things. Planned testing is critical from a number of standpoints:

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Cloud Vaulting Doesn’t Always Equal Disaster Recovery

Originally posted on Rentsys Recovery Services' blog.

One of the key benefits of cloud services is that they enable faster and more cost-effective disaster recovery (DR). So once you've selected a cloud vaulting service and your data is tucked safely into the cloud, you can check DR off your to-do list, right? Not necessarily. 

While cloud vaulting solutions can lend themselves to a DR strategy, simply sending your data to the cloud isn't enough. There are a few components you need to look for to ensure your cloud solution has what it takes to meet your DR goals.

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Readiness Best Practices: Assembling Your Business Continuity Team

Organizations both large and small need to have business continuity planning in place to manage unexpected business disruptions.  Whether these events are triggered by severe weather, civil unrest, product failure or any of a myriad of other factors, the time to figure out how to manage an incident is not when that incident occurs.

Getting Started – The Right Leadership Model

Typically a Business Continuity Manager is identified to lead the planning and preparedness process, and one of that person’s first responsibilities is to assemble the right team and governance structure.  For Business Continuity Management (BCM) to be effective, it is essential that the effort receives organization-wide visibility and senior management support. Studies have shown that BCM programs with executive sponsor and senior management advisory boards or steering committees in place are significantly more successful at meeting their recovery time objectives than those with less senior management support.  Executive leadership is required to:

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Readiness Best Practice Tip – What Should You Prepare For?

Challenge: Developing a high-performance business continuity program is hard work and requires significant resource commitments and upper-management support. Respondents to the MissionMode Readiness Survey report varying levels of readiness with under 40% claiming to have business continuity management (BCM) plans in place across a wide number of potentially disruptive event types:

38% – Comprehensive BCM plans developed and trained across a wide variety of event types

37% – Plans developed and trained across a limited number of event types

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MAD versus RTO

Are they the same?  Seems the BCP/DR industry has some mixed messages about the difference if any of these two terms.  Taking the definition of Recovery Time Objective from BCM Institute it states RTO is the: "Time goal for the restoration and recovery of functions or resources based on the acceptable down time in case of a disruption of operations" while it documented the Maximum Allowable Downtime (MAD) as "the absolute maximum time that the system can be unavailable without direct or indirect ramifications to the organization."  

They obviously appear related; but are they different or really identifying the same thing simply; how long before the impact is too great?

If my MAD is 6 hours (the maximum my system can be down is 6 hours), isn't my RTO also 6 hours (the objective to have the system recovered or the impact is too great)?

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City of Seattle Creates Disaster Recovery Plan

Last week, students in my risk seminar heard from UW seismologist Bill Steele, in particular about the Cascadia subduction zone we live in, including what advance planning and management of risks associated with a major earthquake can be done in advance.

This week, students will hear from Erika Lund, who oversees the City of Seattle's Disaster Recovery Plan, which is an entirely different framework from which to view a disaster.  Among the questions asked of  the Executive Advisory Group, to which Mayor Ed Murray appointed me, were:  how will the Seattle community handle short and long term recovery efforts?  How can we return our economy, education system, social service network, and other vital aspects of our community to full function?  How can we use a disaster as an opportunity to rebuild our community better than it was before? Who is responsible for making such decisions and with whose input? How and when will they be made?

Erika will describe the planning process today and talk as well about the identification of the core values that are a part of the plan.

Someone asked me yesterday if I don't find the world a very depressing place.  I answered that I do not, in part because of inspired work like this, and the people who give their time to do it.

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Checklist for severe weather

This week Charlie suggests some actions organisations may take to prepare for severe weather.


With the severe snow and blizzards in the United States last week and also snow in Scotland, I thought I might put together some thoughts on the actions you could take in advance to plan for a heavy snow fall. As we are not yet out of the winter you may need to plan for snow.

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