How robust is your business continuity plan? How robust should it be? How much are you willing to spend?

 

Do you even have a business continuity plan?

 

I have to admit that as the primary responsible tech guy at a growing company, questions like this scare me more than I would like to admit.

Just this week we were faced with these questions face to face. We suffered through a single night of storms here in New Jersey. It was pretty intense. We live in the middle of a densely wooded area of the Garden State. Trees were snapped all over. Tall trees. At the end of it, a quarter of a million people here were without power. No traffic lights, no street lights, no nothing. I live only two miles from my office and my power was down for two days. The building on the left of our office was without power. The building on the right of our office was without power. Our office? Powered and steady.

I wish I could take some kind of credit here for good business continuity planning, but I can’t. It was just the roll of the dice; the spaghetti of wiring below an old town and just the right power lines being left up. Lucky us.

Do we have a business continuity plan? Sure. It has to be dusted off when someone asks for it during contract negotiations, but yes, we do have one. Credit card companies and universities are notoriously finicky about with whom they do business, and some form of our business continuity plan usually becomes an exhibit in a contract with parties such as this.

But our business continuity plan for these kinds of things are for our products, which are hosted at a very nice facility in Allentown, PA. THEY have a business continuity plan that is great. They have multiple connections to the internet, multiple diesel generators, refueled by multiple fuel vendors, and we have cloud based copies of everything that can be switched to with minimal delay (the time for a DNS record to propagate) if (heaven forbid) Allentown is completely down for any reason.

But what about here in our offices?

Snow days are a nice test of how robust our VPN is, but what if power will be out here, in Haddonfield, NJ for an extended period of time? Well, we have a pair of robust battery units to keep us going for about 4 hours. That has been tested before. No problem. After that, nothing is really documented. Nor has anything beyond that been really tested.

But here’s the thing: Our email is up on our Allentown servers. Our CRM is up there. The only things on our local network are our development servers, our local file share, our local chat server, and our phones. We can live without our development servers for a few days. My development team can just work on localhosts if there is a really extended outage. We can live without the local chat server and just use email. We would not prefer to, but we CAN live without our phones. We have a good system to contact our clients to let them know to email us, and a close enough relationship with them that most of them have our cell phone numbers as a backup.

We could NOT, however, work for any extended period of time without our file share. We have a backup of it on our remote network, so the data is safe if Haddonfield were down, but it is not accessible to our local users without some major pains.

So, now I am looking at a possible Share Point install to provide us with the same function plus a whole lot more. That is an expense we are willing to shoulder for our business continuity.

 

Wish me luck!

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