Electronic online systems are great at keeping information safe should a disaster like a fire or flood remove your access to your information stored at your site, or destroy it altogether. Definitely for remediation of this contingency, it is advisable to have information safely stored electronically. However, for some business interruptions scenarios there is a valid need to maintain the information the old fashioned way, printed on paper. A few years back, a major hurricane passed through the area I was working in. The effects of this storm were severe enough to knock out power to a large area for almost 2 weeks. Not only was there no power to operate electronic devices, there was also not power to operate the cell phone towers (if they were even in any shape to work properly) and no power to operate the ISP network, and no power for the landline phone system either. I had charged up my cell phone like I was advised to do, only to turn it on and see No Bars…nothing. No data, no phone, no land phone, no internet…nothing. In this scenario, any online BCP plans were totally inaccessible thus of no value whatsoever. Any activation strategies, recovery tasks, team strategies were lost.
This is where having a paper system or a paper copy of the online plan is critical. We rely very heavily on technology, but it only takes one gust of 75+ MPH wind to bring this all to a standstill and knock up back to 1940’s style communication. So if there was no power and no communication via cell or via landline, what would have been the value of a paper BCP? Here are some answers which a paper BCP could have enabled:
- Team communications – specify a meeting place for local individuals in the event of an emergency.
- Radio communications – identify HAM radio operators prior to a disaster and set up an emergency communications plan ready to activate.
- Critical information – copies of business critical information for key individuals.
- Transportation – maps to remote locations away from the disaster area.
- Back up sites - Addresses of alternate work areas.
- Recovery plan and list of supplies needed for restarting key operations.
- Satellite phone numbers for key individuals.
Check out more detailed responses from a survey published asking about the importance of paper vs. online business continuity plans – very honest and informative:
For guidance, here is a guide for small businesses which walks owners and managers through the process to “disaster-proof” the IT systems in their business. Please go to: https://dgtl.link/biz_continuity