By Irving E. Gaither
The assurance that a corporation’s critical data—including data flow, storage, archive, and usage—is secure and accessible shortly after any disaster is critical to the success and survival of an organization. The need to implement and test disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity plans has increased due to the use of IT and computers over the last 50 years. Yet, Madison Advisors often finds medium and large size companies that have not implemented or tested DR plans, creating significant risks and vulnerabilities for organizations in the event of a disaster.
If the risk of not having a comprehensive and tested DR/continuity plan does not seem important, a statistic from the Insurance Information Institute claims that about 40 percent of businesses that incur a significant disaster—such as flood, fire, weather, and earthquake—never reopen. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 30 percent of businesses fail within a year after a disaster. The disasters of September 11, 2001 and the Tohoku Earthquake of 2011 have expanded awareness on the situations organizations can face and modified how recovery plans are developed and implemented.
This article discusses the type of disasters that companies should prepare for and how white paper factories improve one aspect of customer communication and business flow. We discuss critical questions to ask before implementing a plan and share tactics on how to implement and manage DR and continuity plans to speed up the process of getting back to business as soon as possible after a disaster. Finally, we discuss vendors and solutions available to bring together internal DR and continuity plans.
Disasters Impact Business
In examining DR and continuity plans, a firm must first identify the types of disasters possible and then evaluate the respective impact. Major disasters with an affect on single organizations or regional companies are generally natural and man-made issues like fires, floods, and power interruptions. Consequently, corporations carefully choose building locations, install fire suppression systems, and backup power generators to minimize the chance that these disasters will disrupt their businesses.
Disasters that are less likely to happen, but which have a regional impact, are natural and man-made events like earthquakes, hurricanes, nuclear emergencies, terrorist attacks, and biological disasters—either man-made or natural. Identifying the type of disasters that could affect a business and determining how to react to them, changes each time one is experienced. The amount of critical data lost on September 11 resulted in more companies digitizing paper documents for archival and backup purposes. The nuclear meltdown at Fukushima in 2011 resulted in many large corporations and data farms within 15 miles of a nuclear plant rethinking their business locations. While the risk of meltdowns is low, the impact of a meltdown on local businesses and residences is much higher than previously thought. The fact that the Fukushima plant design is similar to many nuclear plants in the U.S. compounds the need for corporations to rethink corporate plans for locations, buildings, and data farm location planning.
White Paper Factory Concept
Introduced nearly 15 years ago, the white paper factory concept is designed to print every statement, invoice, marketing document, and other customer communication on plain white paper and envelopes. It is currently implemented by many transactional print centers. It has a number of advantages, including the reduced need and cost associated with pre-printed forms and specialty envelopes, such as the waste from address and language changes; the elimination of job setup on equipment—operators simply reload the same supplies, not setting up forms on rollers or different envelopes into inserters; and job consolidation and consecutive printing, which saves setup time, improves productivity of equipment and personnel, and creates greater postal savings.
White paper factories are becoming popular with the installation of new color inkjet printers that provide the capacity for personal marketing items using plain white paper and standard envelopes. They also provide a faster response solution to DR. Transactional print factories bring a critical communication link between businesses and customers. Getting them back up and running, or having the work done by an outsourced provider—so that customers get bills and statements in a timely fashion—is critical to keeping revenue flowing into the company despite a disaster. The white paper factory solution makes DR and continuity planning easier and less expensive because it removes the need for preprinted form and envelope storage at the contingency location.
A white paper factory means that any location, whether it is the company’s own transactional print and mail plant at another location or an outsourced print provider, can print, insert, and post mail pieces without the need for pre-printed forms, or specially designed and printed envelopes. This process standardizes internal customer communication documents, whether they are statements, invoices, or marketing documents, so they can be printed, folded, inserted, and posted in nearly any print and inserting facility in the world.
Corporations have a few options when it comes to white paper DR. Those with a single print and mail site should utilize an outsource provider for disaster/continuity support in a region that is different from the original site location—note that in a disaster, it is possible that many companies in the same area will also be affected by it. Organizations likely used a provider for DR, but there is significant cost and expense for that provider to store rolled forms and printed envelopes for DR needs. Incorporating a white paper solution means printing communications on the same white paper the vendor uses for other documents. They also use standard window envelopes for inserting and posting. This saves on the cost of storage of forms and envelopes as well as the waste incorporated in swapping outdated forms and envelopes when items are modified.
If a corporation has multiple sites for transactional or marketing materials, a white paper strategy means that sites can back each other up. Depending on how much redundancy is built into each plan, posting delays may occur, but most organizations can provide backup needs for two weeks or more with some additional overtime costs.
Remember, white paper factories impact corporations’ abilities to react faster to disasters with a continuity plan, implement that plan without the additional cost—and waste—involved with form printing and specialty envelopes, utilize corporate resources in other locations at minimal additional cost, and utilize outsourced vendors at a reduced cost.
The creation of a DR or business continuity plan is done in five steps, analysis, solutions design, implementation, testing, and maintenance. Each step has a purpose, and a complete and well-designed plan will not skip steps.
Business impact analysis identifies critical versus non-critical functions of an organization. For instance, both regulatory and corporate personnel may determine that invoice and statement processes are critical to the company. Marketing documentation may be a non-critical function. The identification of what functions must be completed and which can be delayed or not completed allow organizations to build a plan that completes critical tasks.
Once an organization determines which key documents must be printed and mailed, identify two objectives—the Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and the Recovery Time Objective (RTO).
RTO is the maximum amount of time a corporation can exist without the function. For IT processes, this is often a minimum of four hours.
RPO is the maximum amount of data that can be lost by any function or process of the organization. For instance, if data is processed and sent to a print server for processing and storage before documents are printed, the RPO is limited by the storage capacity of the print server. If a corporation decides that the RTO for transaction printing is two days, but the IT/data processing RTO is four hours, it will be necessary to ensure that the data can either be delayed for two days—minus four hours—or that the print server storage can hold two days of print volume.
Threat and risk analysis is another part of the plan. Each potential threat may require a different recovery. Fire may require a long-term solution while a nuclear disaster may require the movement of the entire business location. Human epidemics won’t impact buildings or equipment, but may dramatically reduce the number of employees that can work on site. Weather emergencies such as major snowstorms, blizzards, and floods can make it impossible for employees to make it to the work location and may also call for a disaster declaration.
Impact scenarios form the basis of a business continuity plan. Planning for the most likely scenario—such as the loss of a building, or loss of a floor of a building—should cover the most likely disaster.
Identification of recovery requirements means identifying what assets your corporation needs to complete your solutions plan. Identify minimum space, power, and water requirements; desk space; IT and computer capacity; applications; manual workarounds; and human capital.
Organization want the most cost-effective solution that meets at least two of the main requirements of the impact analysis. For instance, an organization may decide to move to a white paper factory as a business continuity solution. It will allow printing to be done at an off-site provider until the business is rebuilt and equipment replaced. It may also simplify the print files that need to be created by the IT group, reducing their workload. This phase overlaps with DR planning methodologies.
The solution phase includes identifying physical plant, space, electric, and data needs at secondary work sites; determining telecommunications needs between primary and secondary sites; establishing crisis management and communication structures; outlining application and data requirements; and ensuring data replication between primary and secondary locations.
Implementation is the easiest part of DR and business continuity planning. Policies should be established and published so employees are aware. Training should be provided so employees understand their role in the continuity process. Lastly, any necessary equipment or materials should be purchased for the secondary work site.
Testing is a critical function that should be done at least once a year. The more critical the business unit is to the function of the organization, the more important it is to test the plan.
Testing can include swing out to secondary work locations, crisis command team call-out testing, applications testing, and business process testing. It may consist of tabletop testing, medium testing, and complex testing, which usually includes the DR teams announcing a test emergency and having all employees go to their emergency/secondary work locations to fully test the solution.
For transaction print and mail services, organizations test alternate composition systems, delivery of test files to alternate print facilities, as well as printing and inserting of output. Companies often test these services by sending overrun work to DR solutions provider regularly.
Maintenance of a DR and business continuity plan is the last, but highly critical step, in creating and maintaining a working solution. Confirmation of continuity manuals, training of critical employees, testing of applications and programs to be used in DR, and validation of recovery procedures must all be maintained. Changes in everyday processes, procedures, applications, vendors, and organizational structures must be updated and maintained in documentation manuals.
Hardware, software, application, and other technical solution changes must be documented. As these items change, the DR and continuity plans may need to evolve as well. In fact, the organization may have to go back to the analysis steps to modify and generate a new plan.
DR and Continuity Vendors
A number of vendors provide solutions identified with DR and business continuity processes. Here are just a few identified by the solutions they provide to businesses and organizations in the U.S.
Print and Mail Services
DST, MailGuard, Merrill, National Fulfillment Services, Novitex, RR Donnelley, and SynTel.
Recovery and Salvage Services for
Paper Records and Electronic Media
Belfor USA, BMS Cat, Drive Savers, EDM Americas, EVault, a Seagate Company, Iron Mountain, and Polygon Group.
Business Recovery & Emergency Planning Consultants
Adjusters International, Business Contingency Group, Business Recovery Group, Kingsbridge, Kroll, and Progent.
IT Recovery and Cloud Solutions
HP Enterprise Services, IBM, iland, Kroll Ontrack, Sungard, and Verizon Terremark.
This list of vendors is not meant to be comprehensive. A large number of local and regional players serve every category.
The future of DR and business continuity lies in what we learn from future disasters—both natural and man-made. As business processes continue to evolve, leaders must continue to analyze processes, software, and applications to ensure recovery plans meet an organization’s requirements.
As regulatory and governmental pressures continue to change, it is important to be aware of how changes in those requirements may impact business continuity processes and modify them accordingly.
No organization is too small to implement a continuity plan—either on their own or through a consultant to generate a plan for the company.
The white paper factory provides a safe, fast, and cost-effective solution for DR that should convince most organizations to modify current strategies to this format. The fact that it is a more cost-effective, productive, and efficient solution for everyday transactional printing makes it ideal for many organizations.
With data showing that most businesses fail after sustaining a disaster, no organization can afford to operate without a DR plan. SW
Irving E. Gaither joined Madison Advisors in 2013 as a principal analyst. His expertise spans facilities and support management, mail processing solutions, digital copiers and printers, and project management. Gaither assists clients with enterprise print solution strategies, production selection, and business process analysis.
Oct2014, Software Magazine