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Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity: Four Essential Steps for Building a Solid Plan

It’s a day like any other. Your lawyers and administrators are busy doing their work when, suddenly, the power fails. Systems are down and there’s no indication as to how quickly they’ll be back online. What happens next? Is your firm prepared to face the risks associated with temporary and potentially catastrophic system failures? Many firms underestimate threats and overestimate their own resiliency.

How can you be sure you’re not among the unprepared? Here are four essential steps for building a solid disaster recovery and business continuity plan:

Understand Your Vulnerabilities

Disaster recovery (DR) deals with catastrophic interruptions, such as if all servers are destroyed by a hurricane or a terrorist attack. Business continuity (BC) deals with temporary interruptions to technology systems. For example, it addresses what happens when the Internet goes down or if the office building loses electricity for a day or two.

The first and most important step in planning for DR/BC is knowledge. Before you can fully assess your needs, you must understand your vulnerabilities. Many firms don’t fully appreciate how crucial it is to secure the firm’s data and how important it is to be able to quickly recover. Earlier in my career, I was a consultant in the financial services industry focusing on database administration. I experienced the frenzy of recovering an entire data center that disappeared on 9/11. Without a doubt, the threats are real and being prepared helps minimize the impact they can have on your business.

Understanding your vulnerabilities comes with an understanding of internal and external threats and an assessment of your ability to deal with those threats. Without this basic understanding, the potential risks associated with being underprepared cannot be fully appreciated. In many cases, gaining this understanding requires a change in culture. Achieving a change in culture requires training, either offered by a third-party consultant or an informed member of your IT team.

Assess Your Readiness

Every firm is at a different level of readiness, so meeting with a security advisor can help you assess if your level of readiness is adequate. For firms that have no procedures in place, an advisor can help develop procedures based on the firm’s specific hardware/software setup, recovery objectives, and BC needs.

If the firm has policies in place, an advisor can assess the policies to verify that the planned recovery is adequate to handle DR for complex software architectures. Every application is different. The firm’s internal IT team may not necessarily know every application as well as an external consultant. If no plan exists, an advisor can recommend the best path forward based on the firm’s objectives and operating environment.

Create a Test Plan and Run It

Although large firms typically have DR/BC plans, most do not test them regularly. Smaller firms usually rely on colocation data center providers or ignore the issue altogether. Others look for cookie-cutter solutions, not realizing that many legal applications have very unique recovery scenarios.

Whether the firm is large or small, the reality is that any future recovery is only going to be as good as your last recovery test at best. Firms that aren’t testing at least annually will likely need to spend a lot more money on disaster recovery or else they won’t be able to recover all of their data.  

An advisor can develop test plans and help conduct those tests to assure that the procedures are valid, adequate, and up to date. The benefit of working with an outside consultant is that the tests can be run during downtime at the firm. A member of the internal IT team may not want to work over a long holiday weekend to perform DR/BC tests, but an outside consultant will.

Get Help

Still not sure if you need to prioritize DR/BC? Read this post that explains why now is the time to prepare for the worst.




Wilson Legal Solutions

Wilson Legal helps law firms maximize the benefits of technology to reach new levels of operational efficiency and profitability. The company offers deep technical expertise, hands-on software experience, and best-practice insight to help firms leverage their investment in Elite practice management and business intelligence software. Click here for more information.

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