From the November 2011 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

November 1, 2011

Business Resumption Planning: It’s The Little Things

Don’t overlook day-to-day operations of your firm that would be impacted by a business interruption

In September, my office was hit with a power outage. It was very clear that this was a fairly large power outage given the text messages that we received from friends and colleagues in other parts of San Diego County. At that moment, it was time to implement our business resumption plan. In our plan, there are a number of large, important tasks. However, it was the little things—perhaps the ones most easily overlooked—that assisted us in responding to the situation. In these situations, you do not want to take anything for granted.

Given the initial size of the power outage, we had a fairly good idea that power was not coming back anytime soon. Our network infrastructure is connected to a battery backup system. Every advisor should have something similar in place to protect his or her network in case of a power outage. However, battery backups can only last so long and, by design, they should safely power down your servers before the battery runs out of power. Not wanting to risk that this process wouldn’t work, we decided to power down our network manually. This was a very conservative step to take, but worth it because we essentially guaranteed that we were not going to lose any data. Is there someone at your firm who understands how to safely power down your network? Your IT provider should know how to do so, but must be at your office when you lose power. This is not a hard process to learn, so make sure at least one or two people at your firm understand how to do it properly.

Implementing a battery backup system for your network infrastructure is another best practice. I would also recommend that you take it one step further and purchase a small battery pack for the most critical desktop computers used in your office—or, even better, use laptop computers. You never know what you may be working on when a power failure occurs. Having just 15 minutes or more of additional power provides you the ability to protect any data or programs that are locally installed on your computer.

Most advisors have one mobile phone provider that they use for their firm. This initially makes sense because it generally provides the best financial arrangement. My firm uses several mobile phone providers—not necessarily by design, but to accommodate employees who want to use different devices—which actually helped us during the power outage. There were times when Verizon was more reliable than AT&T and vice versa. If we were just using one provider, it would have been much harder (and more frustrating) to communicate with our employees and clients.

A business resumption plan should include where employees need to go when there is an event that prevents them from working at their office. Sometimes it is a backup location or a staff member’s home office. Don’t forget to identify several employees who should still go to your main office as well. Even though our main office didn’t have power, we needed to make sure that we had enough staff there who would be ready to go once power was restored. This strategy offers you the best scenario to get business back to normal once the event is over.

Our power outage lasted approximately 10 hours. Once the power was restored, the next task was bringing everything back online. In most cases, this should be a smooth and methodical process that entails a number of tests to ensure everything is working properly. However, be ready to address some unique error messages. If you utilize an IT provider to support your business, they should also be very active in this process. Then, it is back to business as usual.

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