TPI CIO Dustin Bolander was chosen as a panelist for ALA’s Spring Seminar on Disaster Recovery (DR) & Business Continuity (BC). Austin’s chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators also invited Matt Ridings, who oversees DR/BC planning for Norton Rose Fulbright, and two insurance experts from Shepard Walton.
Video version of this blog!
The panel discussed how law firms can minimize the impact of disasters by creating a DR plan, which allows them to bring up core business services as soon as possible after an unplanned service interruption. In addition to IT services and insurance liability, the panel also addressed some aspects of DR that are often overlooked:
Diversity of Input
Don’t make the IT department solely responsible for the DR recovery strategy. While the technology team is great at what they do, they are not the ones working on the firm’s business day to day. Input from all levels of the firm is important. Make sure you have key people from partners to receptionists involved in the DR/BC process
Cross-training is a great strategy for firms with multiple offices. For example, if you have accounting people in both your Austin and Dallas offices, make sure they can handle each other’s roles in the event of a disaster.
Don’t Trust the Cloud (with Everything)
The cloud is a great storage solution, but it still requires proper design and planning to work correctly. For instance, did you know Amazon offers no uptime guarantee for a server running in their cloud? They require you to build out a second, fully redundant one in another region (i.e. east vs west coast) before they guarantee any kind of availability.
A large part of the internet learned this lesson the hard way when Amazon's primary region went offline for most of a day. Make sure you have a plan for when (not if!) your cloud solutions experience an outage.
Documentation is your friend. In reality, a true disaster happens once every few years, and you may have had some employee turnover since then. People need a reference on what has to be done.
Keep the documentation somewhere secure. If the servers are down, having the DR strategy stored somewhere on a network drive is not very helpful. As an alternative, try printing out a DR guide, and having employees take it home. You can also try storing plans on an external hard drive (that is stored offsite). Think of other things that may be useful, like a standardized email for clients informing them of the outage, and employee contact sheets.
Test your DR and BC plans regularly. This does not just mean IT failover strategy. Figure out ways to simulate your building being closed for example, or a company-wide internet outage.
Make sure your plan grows with the company. Review and update your DR strategy annually (at least), as well as after any key changes – new managing partner, new firm administrator, office move, application upgrade, etc.
Consult an Expert
Don’t waste your time developing your plan from scratch. Technology Pointe, Inc. provides our client firms with true CIO level strategy. This includes sitting down to discuss the right plan for your company, as well as testing and refining. For more information about how DR/BC can protect your business, contact TPI to schedule a consultation.