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Remember the Titanic! In your business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) plans.

The Titanic?

The fatal errors that sunk the luxury ocean liner into history are akin to mistakes many organizations render when developing and maintaining their BC/DR plans. Lessons can be learned and disasters avoided by heeding these missteps.

For those who need a quick refresher: In 1912, White Star Line constructed a maritime marvel with Titanic. She was “unsinkable.” The builders were confident they designed her with exactitude and infallibility. So certain were they of their construction and judgement, they fatefully neglected to carry a sufficient number of lifeboats. Just before midnight on April 14th, the ship was cutting through the sea at full speed. It was a dark, moonless night, the weather was clear and there were to be no icebergs in her path. But struck an iceberg they did. Less than three hours later, she sank and more than 1,500 souls perished.

Four major circumstances contributed to Titanic’s tragedy:
  1. Her construction was flawed by design, particularly her water-tight compartments
  2. The water-tight compartments’ functionality wasn’t tested on a smaller scale
  3. Had her crew considered the possibility of anomalies (icebergs) and not run her at full speed on a moonless night, they may have spotted the iceberg sooner or not inflicted as much damage.
  4. If Titanic’s owners had considered the ship could fail, considered the chance that all may not go as planned, if they had established a backup plan (more lifeboats), perhaps many more lives would have been saved.

Titanic versus Your BC Plan
Titanic’s four contributors can also be factors in the sinking of your BC Plan: a poorly developed plan, failure to test your plan, lack of planning for all potential scenarios, and neglecting to establish a contingency plan – even when you think your plan is foolproof.

Let’s dive a little deeper:

  1. Your BC/DR Plan is Poorly Developed
    Maybe you haven’t updated your plans since the last round of layoffs. Perhaps you haven’t performed risk assessments. Maybe you haven’t documented all processes or determined your recovery time objects (RTOs). Or maybe you simply plucked a generic cookie-cutter plan off the internet without customizing it to your needs. Any of these and more, can set your plans up for failure.

    Your Lifeboat – Update your plans frequently, including risk assessments. Document all steps in your plan, along with the designated responders and emergency communications. Also ensure your plan is tailored for your particular organization and location.
  1. You’ve Failed to Test It
    You’ve been hit by a major cyber attack. Not to worry, you have a great cyber attack response plan. So you thought. What looked actionable on paper, isn’t working in actual function. There are flaws, but it’s too late.

    Your Lifeboat – Test, test. And test again. Don’t wait till you need your plan to find out if it works. Put it to the test to reveal and remedy weaknesses and incongruencies before disaster strikes.
  2. You Haven’t Covered All Scenarios
    You’ve developed a few general plans, but you don’t a plan for all potential scenarios. Of course, an organization cannot possibly predict every disruption that will fall them, but the response and recovery of a cyber attack differ from that of a fire. Also, suppose the emergency communication method you designated within your plan goes down…do you have alternative appointed?

    Your Lifeboat – Consider individual plans for specific disruptions and disasters. By conducting risk assessments and planning for a variety of incidents, you bolster your chances of successful response and mitigation should one come to pass. Also plan for alterations and contingencies within each plan.
  3. Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst
    Sometimes, despite our best efforts, the best laid plans spring sinking leaks. The “can’t happen” becomes the “did happen.”

    Your Lifeboat – Do not be so presumptuous in your plans’ resiliency that you fail to design a ‘plan B.’ Remember the lifeboats.

Staying Afloat
Keeping your organization and your BC/DR plans above water begins before you ever set sail. You must construct solid, fully operational plans. And when you do collide with the predicable and unavoidable, you must be ready with contingencies to curtail loss and damage. You must remember the Titanic.

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Topics: Business Continuity| Incident Management

Angie Longacre

Written by Angie Longacre

As a writer for Assurance Software, Angie devotes her craft to promoting business continuity and disaster recovery awareness, and trumpeting Assurance Software’s invaluable benefits for both. When she’s not commanding the keyboard, you can find her outside for a run, searching for her next antique treasure, or lost in a good book.

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