Having the right business continuity tools can make the work you do on your BCM program easier and more consistent. In this post, we’ll explore categories of tools that will make your program more efficient and help you be prepared to respond effectively to a crisis event.
Here at MHA Consulting, we have had the opportunity to see multiple business continuity tools in action. While we strive to be tool-agnostic, not necessarily recommending any single tool, we do work with our clients to ensure that the tools they use will best meet their needs and requirements.
There are many providers in these spaces; the ones listed are those we are familiar with through use in client engagements or other situations. A review of these tools may be a good place to start.
Many people use simple office tools (forms, spreadsheets, simple databases, etc.) to manage their BC program. Depending on your needs, you may find that you can leverage some of your organization’s office suite tools for some or all of your documentation. It often makes more sense for a novice organization to use basic tools before moving to more sophisticated products. Remember, no tool can fix a bad process.
BCM Planning Software
These tools help you document recovery procedures, as well as dependencies between processes, applications or functions. They may also include Business Impact Analysis and Threat & Risk Assessment functions. They may be SaaS solutions or on premise solutions. We have experience with BC in the Cloud and have found it to be a reliable platform for building, improving and automating business continuity programs in organizations of any size or industry. BC in the Cloud addresses multiple solutions (from testing & exercising to vendor management) from a single platform that can be used out of the box or customized for your organization.
Document storage refers to the consolidated storage of documentation, critical files or other information that are available during an event. This might be recovery procedures and plans (not already in a SaaS solution), contact lists, or instructions and checklists you need for business workarounds during the recovery stage of an event. Many organizations are using cloud-based solutions like a Box.com, Dropbox.com, or a private cloud provider. Some organizations leverage highly-available SharePoint or other internal solutions.
Communication & Notification Tools
Emergency or Mass Notification Systems (ENS)
Companies typically use these tools to communicate short, directed messages to recovery teams, staff or other stakeholders. These often take the form of SMS (text messaging) or recorded messages that provide specific instructions (think in terms of a notification to an emergency management team to assemble or to call in to a web/conference call). There are numerous solution providers. At MHA, we have experience with a number of ENS providers. For example, we have assisted clients with implementation of Everbridge to automate the delivery of critical information to help keep people safe and businesses running.
Web and Conference Calling Services
During an event, it is critical to have remote meeting capability. In today’s environment, the necessary participants are often not in the same physical location, so emergency management teams need to have the ability to share screens and discuss the situation as a group. Most organizations have some capability in place, but you may need a secondary solution if your internal solution is not highly available. For example, clients using an internally-hosted Skype-based solution may have a SaaS web/conference solution in place as a backup. Most of us are familiar with major players (Skype, GotoMeeting, WebEx, RingCentral, Zoom, etc.); at MHA we have used all of these and found them to be useful additions to our communications plan. For example, we use RingCentral to manage our inbound calling on a day-to-day basis, but find that their solutions for conference calling and web meetings are easy to use and highly reliable.
Email is by far the most used communication method between organizations and their customers or external stakeholders. Most organizations cannot afford to be without email for more than a few hours. If your email solution is not already highly available, you should consider that now. Remember that if your organization uses a cloud-based solution, email services may be included in your contract.
Alternate Site Providers
Organizations need faster and more flexible recovery than ever, and there is a continuing need for alternate sites for recovery. It is not always going to be feasible to work from home (or at a hotel). You may want to consider using a service that can provide temporary facilities. This could be a trailer-based or brick and mortar location. These vendors can also provide processing equipment like phones, workstations, and printers. As a customer, you make a single call to initiate alternate site recovery by the provider. There are multiple sources of this service. MHA partners with Agility Recovery to assess and provide total solutions to customers in search of business solutions.
DR Recovery Providers
Traditional technical recovery sites, where hardware is provided based on a contractual agreement, still exist. But in many cases, this arrangement does not meet recovery requirements. These traditional providers have expanded their capabilities to include cloud solutions and services and can recover systems in the < 12-hour time frame. We find that Sungard Availability Services remains a leading example in this space, along with other longstanding players in DR Recovery.
This refers to the use of a cloud-based provider for a recovery of virtual environments performed internally. Large providers in this space include Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and OpenStack Cloud. There are also vendors, such as Rackspace, who resell or leverage those environments to provide a cloud solution.
DR as a Service (DRaaS)
Taking cloud recovery to the next step, DRaaS vendors leverage current replication and recovery tools to provide an end-to-end technical recovery of systems and applications. These solutions are only effective in virtual server environments or with physical servers that can be recovered as virtual servers. Large cloud providers, recovery service providers, and DRaaS-specific vendors such as Long View Systems provide capability in this growing area.
As a parting thought, all of these business continuity tools are intended to make a process or program more efficient and effective; they do not fix a poorly designed process or program. Also, do not make the mistake of allowing the features of an automated tool or service to become a solution in search of a problem. Always identify the problem or need first, then find a tool to address it.