Who You Going To Call When IT’s Down? NOBODY!

by drjim on November 20, 2008

Every IT Department Needs To Have A Business Continuity Plan

Every IT Department Needs To Have A Business Continuity Plan

Quick question: does your IT department have a business continuity plan? If you don’t or, even worse, if you’re not sure then basically you are going to eventually lose your job.  How many of us work in a building that at least once a year has a fire drill? We all look around, stand up and go outside where we mill around for 15 minutes before they let us back in the building (except for those folks who use this as an opportunity to take off for the rest of the day!) Gosh, if we are willing to do that much work to prepare for a fire, shouldn’t we doing at least as much to prepare for something happening to our IT systems?

I suspect that if you talk to any firm that works in New Orleans or New York City, they probably have a IT business continuity plan – they’ve learned the hard way just how valuable one of these is. Now for the rest of us, what are we waiting for – the eventual arrival of Bird Flu?

Once of the big problems that IT has is that we never remember to budget for a disaster plan. It turns out that these things actually do cost money and they take time and planning to put in place. We end up buying more boxs, wireless access points, and PDAs and then the money is all gone and we still don’t have a disaster plan.

So how should an IT department go about creating a disaster recovery plan even if they have very little funding? Simple, assign responsibility to a group of IT staffers and then give them an outline of what they need to create. What they basically need to do is to identify all of the IT processes that your department uses to run the business. Next, they need to prioritize which ones are critical and MUST NOT GO DOWN, or at least need to be the first ones to come back up. The result of this type of internal inspection can be quite surprising. More than one firm has come to realize that the processes that they thought were mission critical were instead nice to haves and the processes that they had not been paying attention to were in reality the ones that they could not afford to do without.

The difference between a disaster recovery plan which everyone gives lip service to and a business continuity plan is that you can take months or even years to implement a disaster recovery plan. However, an IT business continuity plan tells you what you are going to be doing in order to keep the firm’s doors open the day after a disaster strikes. In other words, it deals with a much shorter timeframe. In these darkest hours, everyone in the firm is going to be running around trying to figure out what to do. This is the time that a CIO and an IT team that has planned ahead can really shine.

Everyone will remember you if you have a good IT business continuity plan. Oh, and they will REALLY remember you if you don’t…!

Does your firm have an IT business continuity plan? When was the last time that you tested it? Is it a “living document” or does it sit in a binder on someone’s desk? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Luis Coronado November 20, 2008 at 3:40 pm

Business owners think they know the value of their activities, in particular of all the parts of their business that touches the IT infraestructure (currently pretty much all).

During design phase the idea is to cut all expenses and install the more efficient system, but when the recovery components appear customers become difficult. Even if you manage to have a correct system, rescue procedures are just stored somewhere.

But when difficult times arrive, the one to blame is the IT..always.

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Dr. Jim Anderson November 21, 2008 at 10:02 am

Luis: you are correct – it sure seems like fingers are always pointed at IT whenever something bad happens to the business. What’s interesting to think about is that if we KNOW that this is going to happen, what can we do about it. It sure seems like if we can do some advance planning, then when bad things happen, we will at least have a plan – and I’ll bet that that is more than the rest of the company will have!

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Schlauchboot December 3, 2008 at 8:21 pm

Hi I like your post “Going To Call When IT’s Down? NOBODY! | The Accidental Successful CIO” so well that I like to ask you whether I should translate into German and linking back. Answer welcome. Greetings Schlauchboot

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