Business Continuity Planning – Lessons Learned

The COVID-19 pandemic has created strife across the globe. Many families have suffered from illness, the loss of a loved one, loss of employment, and in some cases maybe a loss of hope in a way forward back to normal. While many businesses have been shuttered others deemed critical or those that operate virtually may be thriving. Assuming your business is operating, have you been able to operate effectively and efficiently? 

Some businesses are benefitting from their consumers being shut in, leading to increased online video and music consumption, people using at home time to learn a new skill, hobbyist expanding their knowledge base. All that aside, in order to operate virtually a business must have at a minimum an appropriate technology infrastructure and a business continuity plan that considers workflows.

Maybe you moved your business operations to the cloud so that all you applications are hosted in some remote data center and not your office space. Maybe you had a plan in place. Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, WA treated patient number one in the US. They had a pandemic plan, had recently tested it, felt confident but when the pandemic hit they realized they didn’t have enough critical supplies and were scrambling for personal protective equipment, PPE. Additionally, defective test kits provided by the CDC were also a major problem. This story played out throughout Washington State, the country and world.

Some business may have segments or divisions that were able to operate just fine while other segments were shutdown. Content providers such as Netflix or Disney have had no problem providing streaming services and supporting end users watching TV shows, movies and documentaries. However, their content creation businesses that produce new movies and shows have been shuttered. Even with the best planning and infrastructure in place, market dynamics have had a huge impact on business operations.

Assuming you have been able to provide your service virtually or were deemed critical and allowed to remain open, having employees isolated at home has had its problems. I personally needed equipment and what normally would take no more than 2 days took over 2 weeks to connect, get advice and place an order. The company was operating virtually and demand was at all time highs and their technology infrastructure did not support their business process remotely as it did when employees worked onsite.

So what have we learned? For me the biggest difficulty was to have imagined the scenario we all faced. This event was beyond many organization’s planning. Perhaps many of the behemoths got it right, or scrambled to make things work. The largest obstacle perhaps was getting the business processes right when forced to operate remotely with employees in isolation. Difficulties collaborating with colleagues, maintaining business workflows, and operating efficiently are among the largest hurdles that virtually operating businesses have had to deal with. This pandemic will certainly impact business continuity planning for many years to come.

So what can we do to be better prepared for other unanticipated disruptions? A framework is important to getting things right for all business continuity planning. Below is a simplified 5 step approach.

  1. Develop a plan – Assemble a team, identify outage scenarios and goals. List what services must function as soon as possible, and what other functions can wait.
  2. Establish business operations workflows – Define how various departments and staff function both independently and cross functionally. Identify how the business operates with staff in isolation or at remote locations. Identify logistical moves of personnel that could be made today which would support business recovery plans in the future. Some firms such as Facebook are already defining work from home positions. Establishing work from home positions could potentially boost employee productivity and reduce company costs.
  3. Define the technology – Identify the services and infrastructure necessary to support the plan, as well as what other technologies could improve efficiencies or resilience. Identify potential logistical technology moves that might better protect the company, i.e. cloud computing and services.
  4. Brainstorm potential pitfalls – Ask what are we missing, identify the what ifs….
  5. Test the plan – Testing can help identify gaps in planning. After testing assess what worked well, and where expectations fell short. Identify the necessary changes and retest.

Network Management Solutions has been assisting companies since 1996 to design, implement, monitor and mange IT infrastructure. We have helped companies recover from failed projects, security breaches and outages. Contact NMS for a free, confidential, consultation to understand how we may contribute to your business ongoing businesses success.

Office Networking 101

So you are a busy executive or business owner.  You don’t have time to deal with all the Information Technology issues or IT jargon, but are faced with decisions that impact your business.  How do you sift through the techie speak and get to informed decisions that make sense for your bottom line?   This brief overview will present some common technology terms that will help empower your decision making.

The first term is LAN.  This stands for local area network.  Basically a LAN is the connection point for all personal computers, printers, phones and other peripherals that may be used in your business.  Computers connect to the LAN either through a wired connection that plugs directly into a network device or through a wireless connection over the air utilizing radio waves.

Once connected to the LAN the computer or other devices communicate through a networking device called a switch or in older networks a hub.  Both devices essentially perform the same function, however switches segment computer traffic and reduce overhead which provides more efficient and faster throughput.

Connectivity to computing resources outside of the office or between offices is provided through a WAN or Wide Area Network.   WANs are typically comprised of circuits, routers, firewalls, and modems.  Circuits provide connectivity to resources that exist outside of the office such as Internet websites and other office locations.  The typical small to mid-sized business utilizes the Internet for its circuit connectivity.   Internet circuits can utilize cable, DSL, T1 or other methods.  Circuits can be delivered over copper or fiber networks.  Most small business use either DSL or cable, as do small home networks.  FIOS is a fiber service provided by Verizon.

Circuits connect to the customer network through either a modem or router.  Routers are typically employed where there are multiple circuits acting as a device that determines which circuit to utilize to access the requested information.  Modems are typically used to terminate single circuits.  The final component is a firewall.  Firewalls segment traffic that enters and exits the office infrastructure and are a keystone device in protecting your business by blocking unwanted traffic and improving information security.

To find out more please visit Network Management Solutions at www.nmscorp.com

You’ll find:  clear, concise overviews of obvious and unseen IT workplace problems and risks.  Self-assessment quizzes, evaluation checklists, and a wealth of information to help you reduce cost, improve service, and benefit both you and your business.

Cloud Computing – Where does it fit within your organization?

We frequently speak with clients about cloud computing. There is much confusion and varying opinions on what cloud computing is. From our vantage point cloud computing is a marketing term that encompasses a broad array of services.

According to Wikipedia “Cloud computing is the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network (typically the Internet).” So how does this affect your organization?

For many cloud computing can range from customer owned hardware and software hosted in a remote service provider data center, service provider virtual machines housing customer applications, turnkey applications hosted in a “private” company intranet, or Internet based turnkey applications that are shared globally among a variety of companies.  In the purest sense of terms Cloud Computing is “Infrastructure as a Service” replacing the need for dedicated hardware, software, and local data centers as the infrastructure moves to the cloud and is hosted by the service provider.

Identifying where cloud computing fits in your organization can provide significant benefit or risks depending the approach and the information your company houses. In addressing the cloud, organizations must consider the potential financial benefits, performance impacts. regulatory requirements, and security risks before moving any initiative forward.

A clear strategy will pay dividends and reward the right approach. Network Management Solutions can assist in the decision process. Please contact us for further information.