Editor's note: This story was originally featured in the November issue of DS News, out now.
Over the course of the past several months, America has been captivated by the slow and steady threat and ultimate impact of some of the most monstrous storms in our history. Right on the heels of Hurricane Harvey which crippled Houston we, as a nation, were bracing for Irma and then again for Maria, a series of natural disasters whose magnitude would leave in their wake tragic levels of devastation.
Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Irma left a swath of destruction that not only impacted many of our island neighbors, but also flooded our cities throughout the entire state of Florida, as well as areas of Georgia, Texas, South Carolina, and the entire island of Puerto Rico. While many of us were fortunate to not be in the path of the storms, we all felt the pain and tragedy of the widespread impact. It’s in times like this that we become of aware of so many things we often take for granted.
For those who were spared, it’s incumbent to assist those directly impacted. Harvey, Irma, and Maria gave us all a good dose of humility, and helped shed light on just how small we are. No matter your race, creed, sexual orientation, or political position, the power of Mother Nature demonstrates the insignificance of our social differences. A storm can highlight the very worst in us, as indicated by looters, but also the purest resolve of the human spirit on display with our courageous first responders and giving hearts of our neighbors. As these storms were impacting so many of our friends, family, coworkers, and clients, they also highlighted another key factor. They made us all take stock of what our plan is, and how we might navigate our responsibilities at home or work if we were faced with days, or weeks, of no power, water, or office space. Before the next disaster strikes, ask yourself the following questions:
Do you have a disaster recovery plan? If so, has it been tested?
Do you have a plan to handle increased growth or an unexpected and lengthy interruption in service?
Are you scalable and nimble?
Partnering for Protection
The good news is that when preparing for the worst-case scenario, you don’t need to go it alone—a trusted outsourcing partner can help see you through any troubled waters. In the days leading up to Hurricane Harvey many of our clients reached out to us to let us know about their concerns. They called to request assistance in covering their business needs in anticipation of a significant and imminent business disruption. Whether or not they were fully aware of it initially, the additional value that comes with outsourcing became palpable over the past several weeks.
A good outsourcing puts all hands on deck and works extended hours during crises to meet the business demands of their business partners. Ultimately, the storms of the past few months taught us that while we will work together to restore order and that life can, and will, go on, we can’t risk everything by not being prepared. It is these undeniable facts, which if we learn our lesson well, will resonate long after the water recedes, the lights come back on, and normalcy is the order of the day again.
All too often we take things like insurance or disaster recovery for granted, and only become keenly aware of their importance when a crisis hits. The words ‘offshoring’ or ‘outsourcing’ are often met with varying impressions, many of which are negative.
However, like with most things, when leveraged properly, a good partner in business can provide ancillary benefits that aren’t measured only in one’s bottom line. To ensure full coverage, outsource providers leverage third-party vendors for functions that don’t make sense to keep in-house. Common areas that make sense for businesses small and large to utilize third-party vendors for are server storage and maintenance. For Global Strategic utilizing a strategic IT partner allows us to incorporate an alternate site for our database into our disaster recovery plan. This approach to creating a strategic redundancy provides invaluable stability to companies of any size, and certainly helps us formulate a plan that will help us serve our clients’ needs, no matter what transpires.
The Light Through the Clouds
Whether you credit Rahm Emanuel or Winston Churchill with the sentiment “Never let a serious crisis go to waste,” it carries a great deal of weight. Churchill was talking about lessons learned from WWII and how not to repeat them, specifically in the formation of the United Nations. We all see the value of leveraging partners when it comes to global security and peace. Leveraging strategic partners for our life and business can and should be no different. We should take advantage of the lessons learned from those impacted by these unprecedented disasters. Each of us has an opportunity to look at our business with greater clarity, and ask an important question: What would you do if your office was wiped out, or power to your operation was cut for weeks or months? If you haven’t thought about it or invested in a plan, then there is no time like the present. For many of us, we often feel we are far too busy handling our day-to-day workload to invest in a plan that may never come to fruition, but to not invest that time and effort is to risk everything.
Even as an offshore provider who serves as just one cog in the wheel of a full disaster recovery plan for our clients, we are constantly looking at our own plans and testing them. Our company took the initiative to adopt a process methodology with annual audits and certification reviews. For us, it was ISO 27001; for your business, another may be more suitable. But regardless of what you utilize, great lessons, practices, process improvements, and security will follow.
Taking the First Steps
The first place to start for any sized business would be to leverage an outside party or consulting company to assess your risk and provide you with a gap-and-risk analysis. Such an investment is worth its weight in gold for a business that wants to grow and do so prudently and sustainably. This discovery assessment will provide you great insight into areas that require attention within your business.
Next up would be to review your entire operation, processes, insurance policies, and disaster recovery plan. If you don’t have one get one right away; if you do have one, find out how often it is tested.
Lastly, consider leveraging partners that can be called upon during times of crisis, during short-term interruptions, or even during short-term bursts in volume. Questions we all need to ask:
- Do you have an offsite back up of all your data?
- Do you test your backup?
- Do you have a first-right-of-refusal lease option for your operations?
- Do you have the ability to quickly scale up your operation in times of crisis or need?
If you allow work from home options or are a smaller business, do you have security and backup procedures documented for those machines outside of your operation space?
When you start to peel back the layers, it can get overwhelming, which is why partners in business are so key. No one outsource vendor can deliver everything. But as the adage goes, you wouldn’t want to put all your eggs in one basket. During the storms, our clients were able to meet a good deal of their daily workload as a result of properly leveraging an offshore partner. But if they hadn’t already invested in cloud-based technologies or leveraged an offsite server backup, we would not have been nearly as helpful. A well-constructed plan must take into account all aspects of your business demands.
If you take anything away from the tragedies, take this—we all got a wakeup call, both personally and professionally. Many companies were able to fully witness their disaster recovery plan go into full effect, and while that scenario is scary, it is also validating to know one’s preparations were smart and effective. We pray everyone overcomes the impact of these storms and hope that recovery is swift. For the rest of us, we are being called to donate our time and resources to assist recovery—and learn from the lessons of these current events.