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Businesses need to have disaster recovery plan in place

Daily Reporter Staff Writer

The events of Sept. 11 awakened many businesses to the importance of having a business continuity plan in place. But almost a year after the event, many others still do not have them, according to a study done by Digital Research Inc.

The study found that only around 20 percent of the 1,000 businesses surveyed nationwide, have either created a plan or plan to create a new position to address disaster recovery.

Bob Mahood, president of Midwest Data Recovery, a Chicago-based data recovery and business continuity consulting firm, said interest in disaster recovery is bigger now than it was a couple of years ago but not as big across all types of businesses as it should be.

Actual implementation of business continuity plans often is based on the company's budget, when it should be based on how much the company stands to lose in the event of a disaster, he said. "There is a clear interest (in business continuity planning), but it is an issue of where does it fit on the priority list," he said. "A lot more budget has been allocated for business continuity in medium to large businesses, but for some small business (business continuity planning) does not make the recognition list."

All businesses, large and small, should have a business continuity plan, Mahood said, because statistics have shown that when small-to-medium sized businesses lose data, a high percentage of those businesses go out of a business within two years.

The loss of data as a result of any type of disaster - power failure, natural disaster or a terrorist attack - could result in a business losing critical information about clients or billing information, either of which could be damaging to the businesses' operations.

Businesses also need to protect their most critical asset-their employees, Mahood said.

"Often times, people are just worrying about their data and they do not think about protecting their people or their buildings," he said. "One way to be prepared in the case something happens to the building where you can't get in, is for someone to have a list of employees' phone numbers (stored) outside the office building."

Mahood said it also is a good idea for businesses to set up a location from which employees can conduct business in the event of an emergency. Businesses should assign team leaders and figure out how to mobilize their people if a problem should arise - and they should do it before it's too late.

"If (a business) has an emergency, they don't want to be making decisions. You want to have the decisions already made and have a plan set in place."

Another area of concern, Mahood said, might be telecommunications. Although many businesses think they are covering their bases by having two or three different telecommunications carriers, those carriers could all be using the same center or same lines. If this is the case, if a disaster occurs businesses would not have a back-up for their computer systems or for making and receiving calls.

It is important for all businesses to evaluate how important certain aspects of their business are to their daily functions and figure out how much they stand to lose if any of those functions were jeopardized.

"In Columbus there are a lot of financial institutions, and those types of businesses cannot be out of business long (in the event of an emergency)," Mahood said. "Other businesses may be able to be out of business longer and not be as affected."

Most businesses do not need an elaborate plan, he said, but should at least have a road map to follow in the event of an emergency.

Because this issue has become so important for businesses, Platform Lab will offer a disaster recovery seminar focusing on business continuity on Sept. 12. at the Business Technology Center.

The seminar will focus on defining disaster recovery and business continuity, give lessons learned about data recovery from ground zero and cover the basics of disaster recovery and backing-up systems.

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