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Monday, 2 July 2012

Business Continuity Planning

The recent flash floods have proved that a sound business continuity plan is essential.
Any disaster recovery plan that has not been tested is pretty useless, as those affected by the deluge of rain have now realised.

The previous Standard BS 25999 has now been replaced by a truly international Standard:  ISO 22301; this Standard contains much of the old 25999 but has detail more added.  

Organisations that have the Information Security Standard ISO27001 will already have a business continuity plan as part of their overall system.  Testing of these systems is often seen as a chore and carried out in haste as a table-top exercise where assumptions are made. The on-going belief that any event can be covered is misplaced unless detailed tests of the business continuity plan are undertaken.

Some years ago one of our Clients carried out a simulated power failure and it was clear that the UPS would soon run down and the company would be left with no IT or telephones.  Most of the senior management were away from the office and the HR manager took the lead in the plan.  She announced that the company had an emergency generator stored in a lock-up garage nearby and that had this been a real power failure the generator would be collected and connected to the emergency socket on the wall outside the server room.

I suggested that it would be a good idea to collect the generator and run it to ensure that it could cope with the load.  Reluctantly she agreed and after about ten minutes a Land Rover towing a small trailer appeared.  I suggested that it should be connected to the socket.  This is where the problem of not testing the plan became obvious; the generator was a single phase unit with a three pin plug. The emergency socket was three phase with a five pin configuration.  Had this been a real power failure the whole system would have been down.  Our simulation declared that a main power cable to the industrial park had been severed and power would not be restored for about three days.  Clearly all the local hire shops would be besieged with requests for generators and none would be available for our company.

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