Security // Risk Management
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Wendy Schuchart
Wendy Schuchart
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Creative Tests For Your Business Continuity Plan

Shake up your continuity training with these challenging exercises that force employees out of their comfort zone.

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Chances are your organization is so reliant upon IT services that it couldn't function without it. That's why business continuity planning often falls under the purview of the IT department, even though it affects the entire company.

This is both a great thing and a not-so-great thing. On one hand, IT knows that it's covered in the event of a crisis. On the downside, the rest of the company is often left thinking, "Not my problem." So when the time comes for IT to test the disaster recovery models, the rest of the business often won't tolerate being put offline for the sake of business continuity testing. It's no wonder that only 40% of IT organizations have tested their disaster recovery plans in the last 12 months. It's no easy task, but a rock-solid business continuity plan is mission critical for high-functioning, mature companies.

IT does what it does best with technology: There are numerous amazing disaster recovery solutions out there -- and, naturally, some less-amazing products, too -- that will get you where you need to go. But in the end, you're only as good as your people and processes. Many business availability events lack technology and there's a high reliance upon the people element. This is where you separate the true IT rock stars from the wannabes. The great business continuity plans always take human psychology into account.

[ Want more disaster preparedness tips? Read 4 Pre-Hurricane Disaster Prep Tips For SMBs. ]

The most common method of testing a business continuity plan involves a bunch of key responders sitting around a table, talking out potential disaster scenarios. The problem there is that the testing is conducted in a vacuum. Everyone involved knows a disaster is about to happen. What's more, the testing team is usually comprised of an elite subset of the employees who have been trained and know their role in business recovery and exactly how to react. They walk into that room knowing that a failure will reflect poorly upon their department.

In a real disaster, you probably won't have the luxury of having your elite team in place. Aside from the fact that testing occurs so infrequently that the BC/DR team has probably lost a few employees due to attrition or responsibility shifts, it's likely that some of your staff simply won't be able to report to work in the event of a natural disaster affecting the entire region a la a hurricane like Sandy or Katrina.

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