What you will learn in this tip: Notification of key individuals can become difficult and introduce unnecessary delays when business continuity (BC) plans are activated, plus the plans themselves can be a challenge to maintain. Fortunately, there are multiple business continuity management (BCM) software tools and emergency response notification systems available to assist with these tasks. This tip provides an overview of some of these tools.
The pros and cons of BCM software
What is BCM software? To some extent, word processing and spreadsheet software could be considered a form of BCM software. But they come with obvious limitations: Users have to do all the work with respect to selecting what content is relevant to the plan. And anytime there is a change to the plan, users must manually revise the plan.
One of the first benefits of specialized BCM software is that it will walk the user through the process of creating and populating a BC plan. This capability goes beyond that of a typical business continuity plan template: Users are prompted to enter information such as business functions, applications criticality, contact information, etc., and the plan is populated automatically. Other advantages of BCM software include:
- Online-based planning, which reduces the need for paper copies and version control
- Some products can be hosted by the vendor
- Centralized plan repository that makes the current plan the latest version
- The ability to create multiple response scenarios based on affected specific systems or functions
- Step-by-step response capabilities allow recovery team to track progress in real time
- Software can also be leveraged during DR tests to simulate an event and track response
- Software can facilitate the audit process for compliance
There are many BCM software offerings available on the market. Some examples include vendors such as Recovery Planner.com Inc., and Strategic BCP Inc.’s Resilience One, which take an all-in-one approach by offering a complete and fully functional package. Other vendors prefer to offer modules allowing customers to only purchase the desired features, such as like EBRP Solutions Inc., and SunGard Data Systems Inc.’s Living Disaster Recovery Planning System (LDRPS). Some products can be rather complex but offer extensive capabilities that include business impact analysis (BIA), risk assessment and notification components. Other products (such as EBRP and SunGard) even come with an incident management component to assist with real-time decision making based on availability of assets.
Finally, one major benefit that comes with using BCM software is that many come with a built-in emergency notification capability such as EBRP, Recovery Planner RPX and SunGard LDRPS. This leads us into the next topic of emergency response notification systems.
Emergency response notification systems
Anyone who has ever tried to use a contact list or a call tree to notify more than a small group of people during an emergency will agree on one thing: they do not work. The call tree process breaks as soon as someone cannot be reached. And both the call tree and contact list are difficult to maintain and time-consuming to use. This is why emergency response notification systems were developed. These systems come in different styles and offer various levels of functionality such as:
- Employee notification (basic functionality common to all)
- Conference call capabilities
- Person-to-person communication
- Message center
- Customer notification
- Progress reporting
- Employee reporting
- Text-to-speech messaging
The following are a sample of vendors:
Standalone systems: Attention Software Inc.’s Attention! Alert Manager, Enera International AB’s RapidReach Emergency Notification System, Everbridge Inc.’s Aware and Varolii Corp.’s Employee Communications are all examples of notification tools that can be purchased as standalone products and deployed in a corporate environment.
Service based: Dell Inc.’s AlertFind Enterprise Notification, One Call Now Business Continuity and VoiceShot LLC’s Urgent Alert are examples of companies that offer emergency notification as a service. In addition to making the software available for purchase, Notifind is also available as an option from SunGard Data System’s availability services.
BCM integrated: As mentioned earlier, some companies such as Recovery Planner, SunGard LDRPS and EBRP have integrated emergency notification capabilities with their BCM offerings aimed at customers looking for those features in a single product.
However, despite all this functionality and automation, there are some limitations that users must take into consideration when contemplating the deployment of a BCM software and emergency response notification system:
- BCM software can be costly, depending on licensing model and desired functionality
- BCM software can be complex and require significant training
- Deployment of BCM software and emergency response systems should avoid locations that could be affected by a disaster event
- Automation does not guarantee up-to-date information: Changes in a business environment must be manually entered into a system
About this author: Pierre Dorion is the data center practice director and a senior consultant with Long View Systems Inc. in Phoenix, Ariz., specializing in the areas of business continuity, DR planning services and corporate data protection.