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When the most powerful earthquake ever to have hit Japan struck last...

When the most powerful earthquake ever to have hit Japan struck last year, few could have predicted the catastrophic consequences it would trigger. First, there was the tsunami that swept in from sea to the mainland, but equally significantly the nuclear meltdown that it precipitated in Fukushima causing hundreds of thousands of residents from the area to be evacuated. The impacts are still on-going.

With earthquakes and all manner of natural disasters on the rise, planning and preparing for such eventualities is more important than ever. Yet companies measures are patchy to say the least only 41% according to our survey prepare for natural disasters of any kind. Its important to recognise the potential holes in poor planning, and equally the role of disaster planning within the wider spectrum of business continuity.

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A majority of organisations prepare for regular IT disruptions such as systems failures (87%) and security breaches (74%), but these are really more likely to fall under the banner of continuity planning than disaster recovery. The two work alongside each other and represent a continuum, with disaster recovery the process to restore operations after a major failure, while continuity provides the ability to continue operations during a disaster including the steps to recover and implement the plan to keep operations going.

If minor disruptions are planned for, then logically the organisations philosophy should also extend to the extremes of the continuum, where a major disruption could take it out of business altogether.

In addition, more local disasters which are more likely to have an impact on a business should be prioritised, but our survey shows they come low down the list of priorities. Local facility issues are only considered by 36%, pandemics or people issues by 35% and supply chain disruption by 29%.

The impact of partner disruption is always a difficult factor to gauge in continuity planning. To a certain extent it's outside of our control. But even if the organisation itself has bullet-proof continuity planning in place, if it's dependent on partners for the smooth running of it's business (and let's face it, who isn't to a lesser or greater extent?) then the plan has a serious flaw.

So what can organisations do to improve their resilience in this area? Its really all about identifying the risks, and mitigating against them and in our survey less than half have mitigation plans. If the organisation is say an automotive manufacturer and it's dependent on a parts supplier, it should also examine it's partners disaster recovery plans and/or investigate an alternative source if the nightmare scenario we're to ensue.

No one really wants to think about that worst case, but if it materialises, being able to continue functioning or to recover and start up again somewhere new could be the difference between survival and going out of business. And that's a scenario worth investigating.

4 thoughts on "When disaster strikes"

  1. This basically comes down to playing the odds, and very much depends on where you're based. Our offices are in London, and although we obviously do business with companies in other parts of the world, we're not reliant on them to function. So, for us, a 'disaster recovery plan' would frankly be money that, in all probability, would not be well spent.
    • If you do "business" with these companies in other countries then I could assume some transaction takes place, of which your business must have a reliance to some level or else you wouldn't do any business with them. A growing trend today involves companies today contractually requiring partners / suppliers within their external supply chain to prove they have a BCP plan in place so that they have some level of confidence that they can continue to supply them in event of an interruption to business.

      A classic example in the Japan event was that many transport companies we're able to continue to function after the event but fuel supplies we're quickly consumed and many of these companies found out that their fuel suppliers did not have a BCP plan in place and we're unable to continue to supply the transport companies.

      Today more than ever the potential for business impact extends far beyond what was traditionally thought to be the scope of a BCP plan and what it was expected to cover and many companies are still oblivous to this.

    • To state the obvious Ben, it would turn out to be money very well spent in the event of a disaster!
    • My community is in a high area and flooding is not a huge probability. We have many underground springs which we have to deal with but they go down into a lake. Besides landscaping for heavy rains or clean our lots for fire possibility, any losses must be covered by insurance or personal expenses.

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Posted in IT services Post Date 12/01/2014


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