Taking a Closer Look at Business Continuity Planning
18 Sep, 2020 by Lori Feldman
This year has certainly shone a spotlight on the value of having a well-thought-out business continuity plan in place. The global pandemic sent much of the world home to work, taxing networks and technology infrastructures. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted a busy Atlantic hurricane season for 2020. They were right. Tropical Storm Isaias left hundreds of thousands without power for days and, as of this writing, Tropical Storm Omar became the earliest 15th named storm. On the west coast of the U.S, California wildfires are still raging and, in some cases, getting worse.
As a company built on ‘expecting the unexpected’ – best practices for staying ahead of bad weather, natural disasters, power outages and even the seemingly unimaginable are always top of mind for Quick’s internal business continuity experts. We thought what they had to say about how we protect our clients and our business might also be useful for your company.
Risk Assessment and Drills
Ongoing risk assessments of offices and data centers are critical for Quick. This includes examining everything from primary equipment and backup equipment to testing generators and backup generators to confirming that everything has the right amount of power running to it. Even something that seems like a relatively small issue could still impact our ability to maintain power in the event of an outage, for instance. Quick also regularly conducts disaster recovery drills for different types of systems-related issues, such as power failures.
The goal is to continually upgrade and improve systems and processes so that we’re prepared for any type of event. Plus, we’ve found over time that our employees have gained a lot of experience through the risk assessments and by participating in drills and tabletop exercises. That knowledge puts us in a position to be able react quickly in times of crisis.
Backup and Replicate Data
Data is the backbone of most businesses today. That’s especially true for a company like Quick whose clients depend on us 24/7 – often to handle life-saving or mission-critical shipments, no matter what’s going on in the world. It’s not just weather, natural disasters or even political upheaval that can wreak havoc, however. There’s also malicious activity and the security of data to consider.
It’s a fairly common practice for companies to have backup data centers, but we’ve found that might not always be enough. As many businesses do today, Quick opts for real-time replication between data centers. In addition to backups twice daily, data is also replicated continuously achieving a RPO (Recover Point Objective) of 20 seconds. This practice greatly minimizes the risk of lost data, whether that’s an email or an urgent shipping request.
The bottom line is that computer equipment, servers and networking equipment are all replaceable; data is not. Taking extra measures to protect it is vital.
Communication is Key
Having a communication plan in place – one for employees and one for customers – is important so everyone knows the protocol when things start getting hectic.
For internal communications, Quick has a system that allows us to send out mass communications in the form of emails, text messages or surveys. This can be to everyone in the company or just to select groups, like those living or working in a certain geography who may be impacted by weather, for example. The message might be an alert to inform them about an emergency. It might even be a wellness check of sorts, where the system keeps sending messages to individuals in affected areas until they respond that they are safe.
Externally, our customer relationship managers will reach out to clients personally during emergency situations to update them on whatever is happening. As an example, if Quick knows a significant weather event is coming, we’ll reach out to customers whose shipping needs we think may be impacted. Specifically, we let them know what airports and roads we expect to be closed and what we’re doing to work around it.
Backup Your Backup Plan
One of the key benefits Quick delivers to its customers is a plan. It starts with the best and safest routing and transportation options to get a shipment where it’s going. To deal with unexpected delays, we always have a secondary contingency plan in place as well. That might involve flying a critical shipment to an open airport and then driving the rest of the way or chartering an aircraft as needed. More than that, however, we also always have a tertiary contingency plan just in case the secondary plan won’t work either. This ‘Plan C’ is critical, as we found out when airports around the world started shutting down operations as a result of the pandemic.
This is exactly how the company approaches business continuity planning as well. We have generators to keep us up and running in case the power goes out, but we also have actual backup locations in case those generators fail. We do the same to ensure we are always staffed as well. If we know there’s a major snowstorm threatening an area – Quick might book rooms in local hotels and arrange transportation for employees so call centers remain operational. As a tertiary plan, we put other call centers on alert as well, so we can transfer calls if we need to.
Thanks to Quick’s subject matter experts on sharing their thoughts on what goes into developing a strong business continuity plan. We had input from Eric Bischoff, CITO and his team; Bob Rottinger, Director of Infrastructure and Compliance; Michael McNally, VP IT Product; Marilyn Kiran, Director of Telecom Facilities and Purchasing, David Leake, Facilities Manager, and also Dan Conrad, VP Quality Assurance. Look for future blog posts as we delve deeper into business continuity best practices with each of our experts.