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Business Continuity

  1. Abstract

In this particular research paper, various problems of different forms are going to be discussed. This is going to take place with particular regard to the Hurricane Katrina that took place in the year 2005 at  New Orleans that caused so much damage to the many business organizations. As it was noted in the research many of these business organizations had no prior recovery plans put into place to cater for the future of the business.

As a result, many business organizations died due to the frequent floods that were brought about by the hurricanes. From such history of businesses dying as a result of these disasters, Adams and Reese, a law firm based at New Orleans saw the need of making prior arrangements meant for ensuring the continuity of its operations despite the random interruptions from the disasters. It is also discussed in this research paper how this particular firm made its prior plans and how its normal operations resumed after the hurricanes.

  1. Introduction

The unexpected fury of the past two year’s tsunamis and hurricanes has continuously raised awareness on the business continuity. Those industries and companies that had not yet been impacted have also begun to find new and better ways of enhancing the continuity of their business and disaster recovery plans (Aaker, 2002). The financial sector has always been aware of the business continuity needs, due to those risks that were specific to particular industries and their regulations. Those brokers who usually accepted trades from clients made sure that the particular trade was completed on that very day of business or the broker would face charges such as the fines and he would also stand high chances of losing customers.

Such regulations were for example the Act of Graham-Leach Bailey, which raised the awareness of the fiduciary and the fiscal responsibilities with specific regard to the continuity of business. These includes having plans that were effective in place in order to counter any possible business interruptions and also providing quick recovery should the interruptions occur.

  1. How the business-continuity thinking has been affected by the Hurricane Katrina

The Hurricane Katrina had several long term effects which redefined the extent of any happening of a catastrophe in many ways: the employees’ personal impact. Many organizations were  becoming used to preparation of short time crises. This made the organizations to fail to understand how a long term catastrophe would affect the availability of their employees to participate in the  general efforts of recovering. With the case of the Hurricane Katrina, it was very unusual that many  of the employees were dealing with their own problems associated with the disaster which included the destruction of the people’s homes, unavailability of the basic needs and even to some extent the relocation of families of many people.

Their was also a wide spread influence on the public utilities. Before the Katrina disaster, there were no generators that would be used for back up purposes that could act as a compensation for the power outages that would last for a very long time. There was also a long term inaccessibility to facilities. There were those facilities that survived the heavy storms of the Katrina, those facilities were however inaccessible because they were all surrounded by the water. There were also the damages caused to the image of the public. This was evidenced when many organizations lost their customer bases. Many of the customers of the organizations lost their faith in the ability of the organizations to deliver quality services (Andrew, 2002).

The local disaster recovery that were short term became virtually impossible, and this increased the chances of  long term failure. This resulted to defining the differences between business continuity and the disaster recovery. As from the definitions disaster recovery was termed as that response to a certain interruption of a particular business process or any other portion of the business by use of the recovery plan that is currently place. And continuity of a business is that ability of a business to be able to maintain all its operations despite any kind of interruption that might have occurred on the process. This was usually with no particular regard to the cost of duration.

This affected those firms that even had their plans in place in such a way that those firms had now considered having their plans reviewed just to make sure that all their business needs were met. Many organizations were having their businesses  observed and assessments made on how the particular businesses were changing. This made the owners of the organizations to update their disaster recovery plans and also the continuity of business to meet their desired business models that existed at that particular point in time (Achrol, 2001).

  1. The Business Context of Information Technology

Development of the correct continuity plan for this particular business needed an understanding of the context of the business of that specific organization’s information technology. Different organizations had their different requirements and risks and this was purely based on the location of that specific business organization; the definition of information technology management and the business; the definition of the mission of the organization: how the lines of business, its facilities, information technology environment evolved; the kind of equipment used by the organization and lastly how the business was run.

Some businesses that were even under the same sector differed when it came to these elements, and also the profiles of the risks that were involved varied. In other words therefore, the assessment of risks usually varies and this is usually in terms of how much risk is a specific organization were willing to accept and also how much risk was the organization willing to alleviate that is how much the organization was willing to invest in alleviation of the said risks, and also how could the specific organization insure.

It was predicted that every firm was going to be different, as an example, at the moment of crises, those businesses that worked to service the region that lies between the Mexican Gulf Houston, New Orleans and Baton Rouge might have determined that the profile of the risks was adequately met by a coalition of insurance, losses being written off and having those facilities that were redundant to be focused on the provision of specific critical services. Other organizations were able to determine that by the help of those facilities that were redundant (Anderson, 2005).

  1. Closing the Gap of the Business Continuity

An organization was supposed to look hard at the gap that existed in the business continuity in all the organizations. This business continuity gap was that distance that normally existed between what an organization’s information technology provided during the time of the crises and what the specific kind of business needs the information technology provided. As businesses evolved and changes in technology were being realized and becoming more powerful and complex, the business continuity gap was also be continually reassessed.

The closing of this gap needed implementation of the policies of the information management that ensured the correct information was being kept and that the same information will be retrieved in order of its urgency to the business. It was only through this discipline that the recovery-time requirements were met. Again, while those organizations for the financial services knew of the significance of accomplishing such requirements for recovery, for some of the organizations with the likes of hospitals,public utilities and emergency services, failure of doing so could even be a matter of life and death.

  1. Awareness and Preparedness

Many organizations all over the region were aware of what a disaster could do their businesses after the terror attacks on commuters in London, Hurricanes Katrina and the assorted power outages that all occurred in the year 2005. Things would continue to happen, this was to be whether they would be caused by Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, terrorist attacks or even process failures.

As organizations were been driven by the awareness brought by the previous disasters, they were looking at the future years as the years for them to prepare and to implement the plans that would possibly help them to survive during the time of crisis (Anton, 2007). The most common valuable component of planning was the brainstorming of the possible sources of the disasters, but being prepared to recover and survive from the impact with no specific regard to the cause is what ensured continuity of the businesses. Continuity of business was about keeping the business going in forward direction despite disruptions. It was not about anticipation of each and every possible type of a disaster.

Those organizations that were smart were now revisiting how they would be dealing with future catastrophe in their businesses life. Part of this would be reviewing applications, the best practices and the technology to be used when determining what needs to be implemented. Many organizations were looking at how complex the process of recovery was with the new eyes of understanding how to build effective recovery plan. This was one thing that the organizations needed to restore their data that was critical to them in that amount of time that the organizations would need it to get back up and moving in the support of the organization’s important operations (Knight, 2000).

Many organizations in the New Orleans were now opting to build disaster recovery or business continuity plans into their daily business models, so that they could optimize and improve on their current information technology infrastructure so that they could be recoverable and even more effective for the daily business. The efficiency of the business could be improved almost like immediately which would be an advantage them to be able to maintain the operations of the business in case any interruption occurred. The value that could be gained from the optimization of that kind could never be overemphasized.

  1. 7. Business Continuity in Adams and Reese

The impact of the Hurricane Katrina on many of the businesses that were based in the New Orleans never ended easily. The impact was being felt longer after the last storm as many of the organizations were still fighting to secure the safety of their employees. For example, the “AmLaw200” which is a well known law firm of the Adams and Reese, the capability of the law organization to be able to maintain the communications through the email just immediately after the disaster of the hurricane confirmed to be the most critical communications link that served as a lifesaver for many of the staff members and the business as a whole (Andrew, 2002).

At New Orleans office for the Adams and Reese law firm, the motion detectors were first set off by the powerful winds from the hurricane Katrina which violently shook the whole of the building the office was occupying. After a very short while the the whole building lost power. But since the law firm had strategic advance planning, a failover had already been initiated by the company’s CIO who was by then David Erwin. The failover had been initiated a night earlier to a data centre at Chicago called the Message One’s Data Centre.

The company’s CIO quickly made a call to the data centre to initiate a failover and after a short while again the company had complete Blackberry and email continuity available to all of its employees. This was achieved through Message One’s Email Management Services (EMS) (Anderson, 2005). After all that had been completed the company completely shut down in preparation for the storm. With  the availability of the email services to the company, it made it even more possible for the company to keep track of its employees since they had all been scattered all over the region. This also made the company to ensure that all its employees were safe wherever they were.

As the company was keeping in touch with its employees via email links, it also had to maintain the touch with many of its lawyers and clients who were distributed in towns like AL, Memphis., TX, Jackson, Nashville, MS, and Washington and had to make assessment of the damage to its mobile office in AL.

  1. Relocation of the Law Firm

Since the hurricanes wreaked havoc throughout New Orleans and far beyond to many mother towns, there was need for Adams and Reese to fully rely on the Email Management services (EMS) of the MessageOne so that they could be helped to locate another real estate in Baton Rouge where they could put up a temporal office for their firm. Since the blackberry services were in use  by the partners of the Adams and Reese, they were frequently contacting various potential landlords in order to negotiate a lease on the office spaces in the Baton Rouge, that enabled them to closing on the very day.

  1. Disaster Preparedness by the Adams and Reese

Adams and Reese decided to plan and implement the email continuity solution immediately after the 9/11 attacks by terrorists in New York. The decision to mitigate the risk was done by Erwin, and he did this by contracting services of the email continuity for use whenever emergencies and other outages could occur within the company. Erwin did this to ensure that whenever a disaster striked its employees would still continue to communicate via the available email services. And when the Katrina finally came, Adams and Reese which was located in New Orleans’ tallest building, had its information technology systems well prepared for the onslaught of the storm with a disaster recovery plan and email continuity.

  1. Surviving the Hurricane

Even though Erwin had prepared his employees and the company as a whole with a working disaster recovery plan, he was not so sure how much effect the hurricane would cause to the company. How to deal with the might of the hurricane was the main problem of Erwin then but he was so confident that with the kind of effort he had put in establishing a disaster recovery plan, he would manage it.

According to Erwin, communication was the only best way of surviving any kind of disaster. If there exists a good communication amongst all the staff members then a given organization’s chances of surviving a particular disaster would be high. Effective communication ensured that, at the time of disaster, everything went on well and in a smooth way since the responsible people were all over the place. The employees of this particular company were very productive and they could often communicate with the CIO and also they were frequently emailing the company’s information officer and this enabled the company to continue with its operations of business as usual.

As the business was returning to usual after the incident of the hurricane, Erwin made sure that he had switched the company’s email system back to the firm’s recovery data centre. And after a few weeks, the company was able to reopen its mobile office that was stationed at Alabama. The offices that were stationed at New Orleans were closed indefinitely and the employees continued to work from the other offices in the different branches and some were working from the temporal offices at the Baton Rouge. The availability of the email services that the employees were using in keeping in touch with the main office enabled them to continue with their work from whichever the location that they were.

  1. Reliable Protection

After the Adams and Reese company put the Email management services and MessageOne through an ultimate test, the team for the company made a concrete solution. The MessageOne’s Blackberry services and the EMS email continuity serves to make sure that the blackberry and the email services were always available to all the employees within the company.

This kind of services offered by the blackberry ensured that there was immediate access to a standby email system that was integrated when other sources of email failed. These other sources may include the primary Microsoft Exchange or the Lotus Notes Systems. The EMS systems was usually immune to the database corruption and all other forms of Windows viruses, this was unlike the other solutions that were highly available.

Activation of the Email Management Services usually took a very short time of approximately one minute to provide full email services, calender entries, contacts and blackberry access to any employee of any number during an outage of emails. This service also ensured that people’s emails did not bounce and also ensured non stop supply of Internet to the employees. The Adams and Reese team attributed the success of their business continuity after the hurricanes to the good communication system that had been put into place by the company’s information officer. The staff members of the Adams and Reese law firm had also known that the best offence was to be prepared for anything that would come anytime (Knight, 2000).

In conclusion it was therefore important for any business organization to have prior recovery plans and business continuity plans in place which would deal with any disaster that would take place in the future. These plans were usually very beneficial to the organization since its normal operations   resumed almost like immediately after the disaster has taken place.

References

Aaker D., (2002) Business Leadership. New York: Free Press.

Andrew A., (2002) Business Continuity & Planning. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.

Achrol R., (2001) Business Planning. Boston: Sage Publications.

Anderson J., (2004) Disaster Management. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Anderson E., (2005) Determinants of Continuity in a Business. Boston: Sage Publications.

Anton  J., (2007) Gaps in Business Continuity. New York: Routledge.

Knight P., (2000) Business & Risk Management. College park: University of Maryland.

Hillary K., (2005) Disaster, Causes & Management

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