COVID-19 has forever altered how we view, develop, deploy, and value business continuity planning.
This global health crisis has created unexpected and unprecedented change and challenges across enterprises, industries, and countries. It has sounded an alarm for preparedness, and every surviving private organization and government agency must respond with immediate and long-term business continuity plans to keep moving forward.
The situation evolves daily, and the question of when safety precautions will fully end varies widely, ranging from weeks to months to beyond the next year. It makes planning difficult. And essential. A sound business continuity strategy that builds operational resilience and mitigates risk for an unpredictable future has never been more important.
A Document Disaster Recovery Plan Supports, Not Replaces, Business Continuity Planning
The terms document disaster recovery planning and business continuity planning are often confused and used interchangeably. In fact, they are two distinct and necessary efforts.
A business continuity strategy is about more than moving paper content to digital, then backing it up and making it accessible. Business continuity planning should be a holistic approach to defining policies, procedures, and systems that integrate into daily operations and keep all regular business moving during and after disaster or crisis.
One of the foundations of a sound business continuity plan is a document disaster recovery plan. Once an effective document disaster recovery plan is in place, you can build upon it with a larger-scope business continuity strategy that addresses global business processes and how to quickly recover from acute disruptions to operations.
Business continuity planning should address:
- Remote workforces. Ensuring work-from-home employees quickly have secure access to the documents, data, systems, and workflows they need to keep working.
- Fractured processes. Providing the tools necessary for distributed teams to communicate, collaborate, and stay productive.
- Diminished oversight and accountability. Enabling leaders to continue to measure and manage people.
- Interrupted organizational systems. Planning to prevent and mitigate productivity and revenue loss
Document Disaster Recovery Plan Basics
The goal of a document disaster recovery plan is to quickly recover content with minimal loss in the event of a business-altering crisis such as a fire, compromised building (due to mold, infestation, asbestos), security breach, or global pandemic. The plan should address all content, as well as related workflows.
Document recovery is a critical component of a business continuity plan because content drives the operations that keep organizations moving forward. A comprehensive and effective document disaster recovery plan prepares employees after a disaster with procedures that mitigate the effects. The idea is to keep people productive to keep business moving.
A good document disaster recovery plan is reactive (i.e., if staff can’t access needed documents how will you make them accessible or re-create?) as well as preventative. The best preventative measure for document loss is safe document access and storage through the cloud. (More on that below.)
A Five-Step Checklist to Disaster-Proof Your Documents
To create your document disaster recovery plan, follow these five steps:
Do you have a plan to ensure uninterrupted, secure access to your critical documents before, after, and during a disaster? Often, we find that if a plan exists, it needs to be dusted off for updating or strengthening. All organizations, and particularly government agencies, are constantly changing. As a result, so must the plan. Your plan should include procedures to regularly review and update as needed.
2. Develop or Update
If a document disaster recovery plan exists but needs to be updated, the biggest problem usually is that it doesn’t consider the unique needs of all business units and stakeholders. It also typically does not address every necessary workflow document. Your plan should be comprehensive and consider all documents needed to accomplish your most important workflows—organization-wide.
Prioritize by conducting a data assessment. This involves identifying your high-value data assets, where your sensitive data lives, which files are most heavily used, and who is using them.
With usage intelligence and data classification, you can prioritize the data that must be on hand after a disaster and what groups will need access to it. Determine which of your most critical documents are currently in paper format, which are digital, and where they’re stored. Remember, even digital documents stored on an on-premises server may still be at risk or hard to access after a natural disaster.
This prioritization exercise is important because not all documents are created equally. Since it’s costly to ensure all information is always accessible, prioritize what is most critical to business continuity and your constituents, then address those first.
4. Retention Scheduling
A clear retention policy is always a best practice in document management, but it is particularly important as part of document disaster recovery and risk mitigation. A retention scheduling policy addresses what documents must be retained and for how long.
For many government agencies, retention scheduling policies are often set by state or local statutes. For most other businesses, corporate counsel is the best guide. Once retention requirements are met, these files should be destroyed—both the digital and paper formats. Doing so saves money and resources.
The only way to eliminate risk of loss is through a cloud-based digitization solution, and digitizing your documents is only the first step. The hard truth is that recovery of paper documents or digital documents stored via on-premises servers is not a guarantee of business continuity when disaster hits. It takes an ongoing process for replacing paper documents with a cloud-based digital document solution to altogether eliminate risk and ensure uninterrupted business operations.
The Impact (and Benefits) of the Cloud
An effective business continuity plan includes processes to access all information technology (IT) systems and data needed to conduct business during and after a disaster or crisis, including all content. The cloud quickly, easily, and cost-effectively delivers the resiliency needed for global business continuity across an organization.
Ideally, to maintain business continuity, organizations should consider cloud solutions to disaster-proof all IT infrastructure and systems. The cloud enables a digital workplace, giving employees access to information, systems, and processes they need to perform their job functions and ensure that business keeps moving.
For document disaster recovery in particular, a cloud-based contact management system offers:
- Access through just an internet connection and browser
- Collaborative document editing and version control features for collaboration on the most up-to-date versions of documents
- Online customer services for optimal service delivery and experience
To help with planning for—and during—a crisis, consider a full-service partner that can adapt to your long- and short-term needs. For example, beyond our cloud technology, Image API’s business process optimization (BPO) services can help maintain business continuity during crisis or just unexpected business changes—often while increasing efficiency—with BPO services for digital mailrooms, document and payment processing, as well as off-site data capture, scanning, and imaging.
Join Us for Continuity Planning Guidance from Digital Experts
To help you continue to adjust to the effects of COVID-19 and prepare for the future, including ensuring accessibility for remote workforces, automating business processes, and elevating service delivery, Image API digital experts shared insights and real experiences from government agencies and private organizations.
Click here to watch our webinar on enabling business continuity through COVID-19 and beyond. You’ll hear insights on:
- Challenges organizations are facing managing remote workforce transitions, and how to solve them
- The importance of going digital to maintain business continuity
- Real-life stories and best practices
For more about how to digitize content as part of your business continuity planning, download our Guide to Going Digital.