If your organization is fortunate to remain in business long enough, you will undoubtedly face some form of disaster. This could be a natural disaster (earthquake, flood, hurricane or winter storm) or a man-made disaster (chemical spill, cyber attack or power service disruption and blackout).
Regardless of the type of disaster your practice or ambulatory surgery center (ASC) encounters, you need a plan to recover from it. Without an effective recovery plan, business continuity efforts could be significantly hindered, stalling the return to normal operations or, in the worst-case scenario, leading to the closing of a business.
A vital component of disaster recovery planning is an organization’s information technology (IT). While practices and ASCs rely on IT to different degrees, all organizations count on some form of IT to support operations. To improve your organization’s IT recovery planning efforts, address these key considerations.
Develop an All-Encompassing Recovery Strategy
Make sure your recovery plan considers every critical component of your IT infrastructure. This includes your hardware systems (e.g., desktops, laptops, servers), software applications, data and connectivity (i.e., the means through which your systems connect to one another and the internet). Overlooking any area will complicate restoring functionality.
Address Disaster Recover Priorities
When disaster hits, every minute spent focusing on a noncritical area to your operation is a minute poorly utilized. Make sure your plan identifies an order of IT recovery priorities that will best ensure the return of vital business functions and processes:
- Address the IT functions and processes your organization requires to remain open or reopen safely.
- Move to areas that help your organization function effectively (e.g., allow you to move from paper back to electronic documentation).
- Address the areas that enhance productivity and the work environment but are not necessary for efficient business operations.
Determine Your Financial Pain Level
If IT recovery efforts require outside vendor support, the faster you want to recover, the more you are likely to pay for services. Reduce expenses by identifying areas where you can afford to move more slowly.
Speak with vendors about different options for restoring IT infrastructure following varying degrees of damage. Match allocated resources to recovery time objectives for your business functions. While it will likely make sense to budget (i.e., pay a premium) for an expedited recovery of your time-sensitive business functions, you can likely push other areas down the list.
Identify Internal Capabilities
Your plan should consider the IT abilities of individuals on your staff, particularly designated IT specialists. Understand what recovery skills these team members bring to the table.
These individuals must be honest about their abilities. They may feel comfortable setting up a new desktop, but installing a server could put their skill limits to the test. For areas of high priority, the risk of placing a task in the hands of an uncertain staff member may not be worth the potential savings, as any shortcomings will require external support. Keep in mind there is no guarantee your in-house IT specialists will be available when a disaster hits. Include a backup plan in your recovery plan.
Comprehensive Disaster Planning
When it comes to protecting your organization in case of disaster, consider the full spectrum of planning.
Business Continuity Plan
Focuses on defining the threats and scenarios that can adversely impact an organization and on making decisions about how to mitigate these risks.
Disaster Recovery Plan
Focuses on determining consistent, pre-planned actions in response to a disaster scenario after the damage has been done.
Consider IT Options
Smart investments can potentially help improve recovery capabilities. There are numerous options from which to choose, with different functionality and cost. For example, some organizations maintain two servers onsite that are essentially clones of each other. If one server fails, the other can continue to support operations. Another option is to use cloud backup solutions that capture and sync copies of data, applications and/or servers to offsite locations.
These and other choices can feel overwhelming. It is essential to have support from someone knowledgeable about the pros and cons of such solutions.
Physicians Endoscopy (PE) provides this support to its centers, as well as helps with budgeting for IT upgrades and considering opportunities to build in redundancies when replacing existing systems. If you do not have an organization like PE in your corner, consider bringing in an outside IT consultant. This expertise can help ensure that your organization makes the most appropriate decisions about where to invest.
Keep Your Plan Current
Treat your IT disaster recovery plan as a living document. Regularly update it to reflect your current operations. Update your IT disaster recovery plan when there are new IT investments, staff turnover that would affect its execution and changes to your IT vendors. Even if none of these events happen during the year, an annual review is worthwhile to make sure the plan remains viable. If inconsistencies develop between the plan and your current operations, this will impede your efforts for a timely, effective recovery.
As Director, Information Systems, at Physicians Endoscopy, RICK SCHMIDT plans for growth and ensures information systems continue to function efficiently. With 18 years of IT experience, he is responsible for designing and deploying the information systems in use at PE and PE-affiliated centers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.