Business Continuity: Stormy Weather

By Debra D'Agostino  |  Posted 08-23-2006

Weather forecasters agree we're in for another bad hurricane season. The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration defines a "normal" hurricane season as having 6 to 14 named storms, with up to 3 major hurricanes. Its prediction for 2006: as many as 16 named storms, and 6 major hurricanes. And if it seems we've escaped Mother Nature's wrath—so far this year, only 2 hurricanes have been named—consider this: The official hurricane season runs from June through November, but last season's hurricanes spun strong into January.

How quickly would your company recover if a hurricane struck? It's a question that's being asked more and more often, say Gary Curtis and Gil Brodnitz, both of Accenture's strategic IT effectiveness practice. "We see clients doing a lot more planning than ever before," Brodnitz says. "That might include a surprise training day when, for example, the trading floor of a financial services firm moves to its backup site in New Jersey, to make sure everything will run smoothly."

When it comes to business continuity, trying to avoid downtime is not enough. "Too many companies focus on prevention, and not enough on recovery," Brodnitz says. "You have to assume some disaster will get you, so you must prepare for how you will recover." That means doing thorough scenario planning, says Curtis—and talking to business leaders to see how they might be affected. "You have to think holistically about what can go wrong," he says. "Think about which fires you would have to put out first. And build into your vendor SLAs what should happen in an emergency. Engaging key suppliers is critical."

Finally, consider all the angles—not just the IT issues. One of Brodnitz's clients prepared a disaster-recovery strategy complete with a redundant site for displaced workers. But when disaster struck, the backup site's water supply became contaminated. "So even though the client was prepared, it ended up with thousands of people sitting on their hands," Brodnitz says. "The lesson is: Expect the unexpected."