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IBM shares tips for disaster preparation

Computerworld Singapore staff | Dec. 21, 2011
Six tips focus on key factors including data backup, people, and communications

IBM announced six tips that individuals and businesses can use to help prepare their IT environments for natural disasters and a wide range of other threats.  

According to some estimates, 2011 has become the year of billion-dollar disasters. This is apparent by the series of hurricanes and tornados in the United States' Midwest and Southeast, combined with the earthquakes on the East Coast, Colorado and Peru. Closer to home, there were the tsunami in Japan and the devastating flood in Queensland, Australia, and more recently in Bangkok. With all of these activities, it is a safe assumption that natural disasters should be a top risk concern.

In preparation, many people in high risk areas are rushing to buy emergency supplies like flashlights, water and wood to board up their houses, but it is important to also consider the preparedness of businesses and government agencies. Given these impending natural disaster and other top causes of disasters like power outages and network failure that disrupt the flow of information, businesses and individuals should also be assessing their business and disaster recovery plans before it is too late. In today's on demand environment, it is important to rapidly adapt and respond to risks, as well as opportunities, to maintain continuous access to data for personal and business reasons.

Following are IBM's tips for disaster preparedness:

  • Consider employees and the personal impact of a disaster - A company's most important asset are their people, but the most important asset for people are their families. Consider how you would move them and their families if required, think about providing financial support to your employees during a crisis event, and consider offering counseling to help them deal with the aftermath of the crisis.
  • Develop various ways to communicate with employees, partners - After people, the next most important element is communication. Communications efforts must be timely, clear and honest, as miscommunication can make a disaster even worse. Consider how you would communicate with your employees, partners, clients, media, industry, and vice versa, what training you have provided, what tools you are using and -- very importantly -- test the communications plan.
  • Validate your data backup plan - Verify that your data is out of harm's way and/or is accessible to your recovery location. Consider using a cloud service to store key data and allow your company more flexibility to respond to changing conditions with minimal interruption to the business.
  • Think about the "domino effect" when considering business risk - Years of experience monitoring regional disasters has shown that these events often create other events. For example, a hurricane normally has high winds and heavy rains that can lead to flooding, structural damage, power outage, telecommunication and/or travel disruptions.
  • Plan for catastrophic events that could last a while - For example, businesses must consider the impact if the duration of the disruption to the facility, network, technology, or people is longer than a period of three days, one week, etc. Over the past decade, we have seen more devastating disaster events with a longer term duration and financial impact. Companies need to consider their options if their primary environment or key people are not available for more than two weeks.
  • Think broadly - Each company is part of a supply chain or network. While you may do everything right, if you have a critical partner, supplier, vendor or provider of service, your preparedness is only as good as those other businesses. As part of your disaster recovery plan, ensure everyone upstream and downstream from your business is also prepared.


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