Making disaster planning a priority

When it comes to creating and maintaining adequate business continuity/disaster recovery (BC/DR) plans and systems, multichannel merchants share the same core challenges as other types of companies: Dedicating sufficient attention to this initiative amid day-to-day priorities, and concerns about the immediate costs/investment for upgrading these plans/systems.

As we noted in our earlier article “Few Operations Prepared for Disasters,” most companies are not prepared with effective BC/DR plans. A study conducted by technology products/services provider CDW found that 30% of respondents were at times unable to operate at all due to a network disruption, and their locations shut down completely.

“It’s hard to think about and get your arms around,” says one IT manager at an $80-million merchant company we spoke with. “There are always other projects with seemingly higher priorities.”

So what is this company’s BC/DR plan? The merchant is converting to a new ERP system, and it hopes that the resulting new database will enable easier recovery from a business interruption.

The company now has back-up/redundant hardware—but it resides in the same building. It also has a cold-site emergency option that is partially wired; but by definition, a cold site has no hardware or infrastructure in place.

As mentioned in our February MCM article “Develop a master disaster plan“ a hot site is fully hardware-equipped and ready to go once as the servers are loaded with the current operational and data recovery back-ups (assuming back-ups are not already residing there). Cold-site facilities do not contain hardware or back-up data, and are often used for storage purposes until needed for an emergency; these are the least expensive option, but recovery takes longer. A warm site falls between hot and warm in terms of investment and speed of recovery.

One disaster recovery aspect the merchant does have is a back-up hot site for its call center, to which it can reroute 800-number calls. This is a virtual PBX with voiceover Internet protocol. The company has tested this, and the IT manager reports that it can be up and ready to take calls within an hour.

This company understands the importance of having a solid BC/DR plan and a hot site or reciprocal agreements that enable continuity in an emergency, the IT manager reports. Because the cost of the former is high, the merchant is currently looking into the latter.

But the bottom line at this company, as at so many others, is that emergency/business recovery has to fight for priority and funding with innumerable other company projects.

Curt Barry ( is president of F. Curtis Barry & Co., a multichannel operations and fulfillment consulting firm.

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