Disaster recovery, system redundancy and everything associated with business continuity at first reminds me of all the experts who urged companies to spend money to make sure their systems were Y2K-compliant. In a way, you could call it the Chicken Little syndrome.I am not an IT expert, so I can't say for certain that the billions that companies spent on Y2K remediation was a big waste of time, effort and money. But I've spoken to a number of experts who do profess that the hype surrounding Y2K-hype that was fanned by IT consultants and vendors-did result in much unnecessary spending to fix a problem that may or may not have caused widespread system failure.

However, many IT experts will say that the money spent on Y2K remediation was not a waste-that companies were able to locate and repair countless problems with their systems. In layman's terms, I guess the analogy of Y2K remediation is having a mechanic give your car's engine a tune-up or major overhaul.

I'm equally skeptical about spending big bucks on business continuity. That is, until I read our article in this month's issue. If you don't believe that business continuity is critical to your company's financial well-being, I suggest you read the article as well. Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield occupied 10 floors in the World Trade Center's North Tower. Eleven of the company's employees or consultants perished on Sept. 11, but thankfully most of the company's 1,900 employees and consultants escaped unharmed before the building crumbled.

Empire's IT systems that were in the building didn't survive. Lost in the catastrophe were 265 servers, 2,300 desktops and 400 laptop computers. The article explains that the system redundancy and reliability that was built into Empire's business continuity plans enabled the company to recover rapidly from the terrorist attacks. But more importantly, Empire's recovery was successful because its well-trained workforce was prepared to act when the disaster occurred.

There was the employee who called Empire's technology suppliers-before the building collapsed-to order hundreds of servers, workstations and laptops, and included instruction on where they should be delivered. And the engineer who quickly set up microwave communications between two buildings that temporarily housed some of Empire's business operations.

Michael Galvin, Empire's chief infrastructure officer who witnessed all of this, sums it up this way: "Invest in your people and their skills, and listen to them. Whatever you put into your people, you'll get back tenfold."

Business continuity is much, much more than just recovering data when disaster strikes. It's about the people who work for you and making sure that they have the skills to make the right decisions in a split second. How they react in a time of crisis could mean the difference between rapid recovery or operational failure.

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