Establish plans, policies for data disasters before they hit

In light of the events of September 11, and subsequently the potential threat of future attacks on North American soil, corporations have been forced to take a long look at their own disaster recovery plans.

One company recently released a list of precautionary measures to ensure businesses remain operational during a disaster. KMC Telecom, a Bedminster, N.J.-based CLEC, maintains that disaster planning should be an essential step for any business.

KMC’s Frank G. Boscarillo, senior network operations and designated disaster recovery manager, said that although businesses cannot possibly prepare for every disaster, procedures and policies should be in place to plan for the worst-case scenarios.

Number one on the list is to be prepared, a statement that may appear vague and obvious, but one that Boscarillo stressed is most important. He says that by designing a plan that is meant to react to the worst-case scenario, companies will ensure that measures that are in place can be applied to lesser emergencies.

“Generally, the first time people think of disaster recovery planning is during a disaster,” Boscarillo said.

Although stressing that the safety and security of employees comes first, Boscarillo said that from the perspective of network managers, the network must be treated with as much protection. He recommends that network managers must do a very good job of periodic maintenance.

“We have emergency generators at every one of our sites,” he said. “We have to run those things once a week to test the fuel levels. That is one of the things that you really rely on in the event of a disaster.”

He said that another major concern is data storage. Boscarillo recommended keeping one copy of back-ups in a fireproof box on-site and another off-site. He also suggested continuously rotating the tapes to ensure that in the wake of misfortune, data is at worst three weeks old, but not completely lost.

“I have been in this business for about 15 years,” Boscarillo said. “Early on in my career, I had a lot of training in this area. As it has turned out, it is a lot of planning that we have only had to enact once in my career.”

That one situation was a flood that could have proved more devastating had the company not established a comprehensive, but not cumbersome, disaster recovery plan, Boscarillo said.

In planning for worst-case scenarios, designating alternate disaster locations is something many companies don’t think about. Boscarillo said that companies should identify a location where they could headquarter, selecting primary, secondary and third-choice options.

KMC also stressed that having an established communications plan is key to maintaining the operation of your business.

“Most communications providers will do something (for the customer),” Boscarillo said. “KMC recently helped a company that lost their phone lines by giving them cell phones until their land lines could be re-established. For very large customers, particularly those in the long-distance business, it is a good idea to have a back-up carrier. That way you are not putting all your eggs in one basket.”

Although Boscarillo admitted that these precautionary steps are mainly common-sense issues, he added that the need for a proactive approach to disaster recovery is always needed.

“You have to prepare for the worst-case and try to plan for it in the way you would react to it,” he said. “Have all up-to-date information. Verify all the contact information. It is really critical.”