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Testing work-area recovery

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So you’ve got a business continuity management plan in place, and it includes a work-area recovery (WAR) component. Now, of course, you need to make sure that the plan works. 

“When you physically move a group of people to a new site and expect them to be productive almost immediately, in a sense the easy part is ensuring they have the basic tools: desks, computers with the right programs, washrooms and so on,” says Tracey Linnell, GM: Consulting at ContinuitySA.

“But there are a host of practicalities that need to be thought through that will make all the difference, and that should be integrated into the practice routines. This will make the testing of your plan much more successful, and will pay off should a disaster occur.”

Linnell offers the following seven tips to think about:
* Show the way – when people arrive at the WAR for the first time in a group, they don’t know where to go. Make sure that each team leader has a lollipop-style sign with the team name clearly marked so people can find where they need to be quickly, roll calls can be taken, and the team can proceed to their designated area in an orderly fashion.
* Put together a battle box – this contains all the additional things people need to do their jobs. It is primarily a set of physical items stored in a case that is taken to the WAR (or stored at the WAR site), but it might also be stored virtually if the requirements are all digital.

Examples of physical items would be stamps, stationery, training or reference manuals. Other elements that need to be considered would be security tokens that people need to authenticate certain financial transactions, as well as all the many passwords people need to access multiple applications—and sometimes the telephony system instruction manual! The former might be stored in a sealed envelope in the battle box or in a virtual, encrypted form in the cloud.

“Also important are the links and shortcuts to the websites and corporate applications that staff members use regularly. Usually these are on people’s computer desktops in a normal operating environment, and then when they need to work at the WAR, they cannot find their shortcut, nor do they know the URL of the website /application. Make sure everybody has a list of the actual URLs in the Business Continuity Plans,” Linnell advises.

“Also make sure that people have the correct media players that they will need on their computers—having to download them can add to the confusion and load IT even more.”

* Get them there. When testing, it’s likely that the company will take staff to the WAR site by bus, but give some thought to how they will get there over several days or weeks if there is a real disaster. For many people, especially in South Africa, transport is a major factor as regards expense and availability.
* Don’t forget the food – people tend to rely on canteens or nearby restaurants for creature comforts during the work day – make sure that there are tea and coffee facilities on site and that you have thought through how they will get lunch, chocolate bars and whatever else they need to survive the work day.
* Keep collaboration happening – make sure that lists of extension numbers at the WAR are distributed so that workers can continue to consult with colleagues easily.
* Include outsourcing providers – the outsourcing of parts of the business process is increasingly common, and so it is essential that outsource providers are included in WAR testing and planning so that things work smoothly in the event of a disaster.
* Make the test credible – one thing to bear in mind when testing is to ensure that the WAR is not simply connecting back to the IT production environment (when it should be pointing to the DR environment)—thus rendering the test null and void in the truest sense. Another point to remember is that the same people should not be used for each test cycle—make sure that as many people as possible go through the testing process and know how the WAR works.

“Over the course of various testing cycles, it’s likely that additional things will come up,” Linnell concludes. “It’s important to make sure they are included in the plan so that future tests—and in the event of a real incident—that things will run as smoothly as possible.”