Disaster Recovery is Crucial to Your Business – Learn Why

There are two types of print service providers in the world – those who have experienced a disaster and those who will…

Nobody really wants to think about an unpredictable future event that keeps their business from processing work on behalf of their clients. Customers count on their vendors to consistently print and mail critical business documents like bills, statements, or claim forms.An extended outage will likely cause customers harm and could spawn lawsuits, SLA fines, or loss of business. Adequate preparation could be the difference between getting through a difficult time period with the business intact or facing a total business failure.
Disaster Recovery (DR) or Business Continuity Planning (BCP) should be included in the business plans of every print service provider. Not having such a strategy is tempting fate.

Disasters Come in All Forms

We often think of activating DR plans in only the worst cases – fires, floods, earthquakes, tornados, etc. Visions of our production facilities buried under piles of rubble may come to mind. Certainly facility sites where there is a known history of natural disasters should take special precautions. But events that can keep a company from getting their work done can happen almost anywhere.

Consider a disruption of electrical power, water shortages, a medical pandemic that decimates your work force, interruptions in communications, political unrest, computer viruses, terrorism, transportation problems, or labor strikes. Your building may look just fine in each of these circumstances, but there may be little or no work being done. The impact to your customers is the same as if your entire operation went up in flames.

Disaster recovery plans may come into play even before an event occurs. New customers may demand that any vendor bidding to win their contract have DR plans in place and be able to demonstrate that they are regularly tested. Failing to have a plan, or insisting that there’s never been a problem, can disqualify print/mail service providers from being considered as a viable candidate.

What is in a Plan?

DR plans come in all shapes and sizes. The size of an organization and the nature of the work being done will dictate just how comprehensive the plan needs to be. Generally, here are some areas most print and mail production facilities need to address:

  • Data Backup – Where is data backed up and how often? How is data retrieved? Are there multiple methods of retrieval should the primary channel be disabled? Don’t forget about application programs used to process the work and other items necessary to create the documents such as form overlays, logos, images, and signature files.
  • Production Backup Site(s) – A print/mail service provider may have multiple sites identified. At least one of them should be far enough away geographically to be unaffected by the same local disaster that disables the main production facility. Naturally, backup sites need to have compatible software and equipment that allow the work to be processed.
  • Backup Production Lead Time – It is necessary to know how long it takes for a backup site to be operational to know when to start preparing to use it.
  • Communications Protocol – Identify multiple channels of communication among your staff, with the backup site, critical vendors, and customers.
  • Emergency Materials – Where are pre-printed forms and envelopes stored? How often is the stock rotated? Leaving paper materials sitting at a backup warehouse for months at a time may render them useless if an emergency was declared. They may be obsolete or degraded to the point they won’t run on the equipment.
  • Testing Schedule – Declaring a backup site and setting up procedures is only the first step. Regularly testing the capabilities is a critical component of a disaster recovery plan. Job parameters can change over time, equipment gets retired or upgraded, and data formats are revised. Any of these conditions can prevent a DR plan from being effectively implemented. Testing on a regular schedule helps to mitigate these risks.

Disaster planning is not exciting work. It is easy to put off or to dismiss the preparations as wasteful or unnecessary. But when a disaster hits, those companies that have a plan to continue serving their customers with minimal disruption will fare much better than those who have no strategy.