Preparing for unseen disasters: Best practices for emergency preparedness

Updated: Jul 26, 2020 4:44 PM

In the process, this black swan event has completely altered our way of thinking and has forced organizations to bring about a change in the way they function.

coronavirus, emergency preparedness, earthquake in india, disaster recovery, Disaster Recovery Services, virtual private network, work from home, zoom, latest news on disasterIn many cases, the impact of a pandemic can be severe. (Representational image)

By Prasenjit Roy

The impact of coronavirus has turned our worlds upside down and has left companies scrambling for ensuring business continuity. We highlight some best practices that companies can take

With more than 3,00,000 people affected — the impact of the coronavirus has been deadly. In the process, this black swan event has completely altered our way of thinking and has forced organizations to bring about a change in the way they function.

While most organizations plan for disasters, the plan normally involves only physical assets. If one physical asset is affected, the other physical asset in another location takes over. While disaster recovery also involves manpower planning, this has not been fully tested, till today. As many locations or regions are getting affected by the pandemic, it is important to test out all options with respect to people for their safety and the society at large.

From our experience, we recommend the following:

#1 Well defined and documented disaster preparedness policy

The disaster recovery preparedness policy must clearly state the precautions that must be undertaken by organizations according to different levels of risk. From working with minimum staff to a complete shutdown, the policy must state the level of preparedness and the impact. For instance, the policy must state how critical applications will be transferred to backup sites in case of a complete shutdown and how would remote workers work in case of a work from home option. The plan must be regularly updated as pandemics can move fast and have a terrible impact if organizations are not prepared adequately.

#2 Communication with clients

In many cases, the impact of a pandemic can be severe. An open communication with clients with respect to staff availability and measures undertaken helps in soothing down frayed nerves. Organizations should defer any new migrations or application upgrades, if it does not have an immediate business impact on the client’s operations

#3 Communication with staff

Organizations should provide clear guidance and communication along with a detailed list of FAQs on company policies. This must include steps and guidance with respect to symptoms observed, self quarantine measures, insurance coverage, paid or sick leave options etc. They must also have the required access and software tools to work from home. Employees must also be given guidance in terms of withdrawing themselves from industry events and large gatherings. Documentation should also include office hygiene protocols.

#4 WFH tools

In times of disaster, communication and collaboration between team members is extremely crucial. Organizations must provide the right tools for employees to enable easier WFH (Work From Home) options, while being secure. Organizations can also consider virtual private network (VPN) connections to ensure reliable and secure access. Organizations must also encourage employees for remote working and encourage them to use software such as Skype and Zoom to collaborate more actively.

#5 Use Cloud-based Disaster Recovery Services

If you use a cloud-enabled DR service, then you can decide to quickly create a replica of your entire infrastructure in a different region. All your cloud-based data and services can also be automatically migrated to a third party cloud service provider and run from anywhere n the world.

Depending on the speed at which the virus grows and expands, it is important to constantly review disaster recovery plans and keep them updating them regularly. Organizations must take into account current challenges, and take the lessons learnt for preparing for the future.

(The author is Senior Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer – Global Data Centers and Cloud Infrastructure (India) of NTT Ltd. Views expressed are personal.)

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