Through the years of running a business, I’ve learned to constantly reevaluate our disaster plan and strategy. One great way to do this is to gather with co-workers and discuss different scenarios and how they might play out. This role-playing exercise is a fantastic way to uncover weaknesses in the armor of even the best-laid plans.
As an active participant in these discussions, I find that we are always planning for the worst case scenarios – hurricanes, tornadoes, man-made attacks, etc. Our primary concerns are our server infrastructure, data processing center, and disaster recovery backup. Hours have been spent on planning and preparing for any situation and building redundancy – meaning that if one server, system, or other integral hardware or software fails, there are multiple backups so that our products remain available at all times.
Feeling good after our last meeting, I was exiting the conference room when someone asked a simple question. “What if Time Warner goes down and the office loses Internet access?” The problem with preparing for the big disasters is that often the small things are taken for granted and go undiscussed. We don’t think of a short power outage or loss of Internet in terms of disasters, but they too are debilitating. In our meetings, we were so worried about our data and our customer experience on our site, we neglected to talk about the simple things that could go wrong.
If we lose Internet to the office, our software is not affected in any way and will remain available to all customers because it is located on multiple, off-site servers around the country. However, we would lose our ability to provide customer service, as both our phones and support tools rely on the Internet. You rarely consider your office Internet provider losing connectivity; but, just one month after we put our Internet backup plan in place, Time Warner dropped connections to over 500 modems in downtown Raleigh, where our headquarters is located. Without preparing for this potential problem, we would have been unable to provide service to customers. By involving everyone in the company in a lengthy brainstorming session, we were able to plan for the small problems too.
As you go through your planning steps in the next months, be sure to prepare for events like natural disasters or school shootings, but don’t forget the small things that are more likely to happen and can often be just as devastating.