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Business Continuity Software


A look at Business Continuity software, and whether we really need it.

Wow!!!
When you listen to some of the salesmen of Business Continuity software you just can not but wonder about the products. They can do everything, except make the tea, and do the ironing.

  • Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

  • The greatest thing since sliced bread!

  • Wow!!!

Or is it really so? Business Continuity software. Do we really need it? Does it help the project? Do we do it quicker? Better? Cheaper?
Or is it an unnecessary, expensive, over-complicating, over here (much of it is American) distraction. We do have our own home-grown UK products as well !

Plan Development
The serious bit for software where there are many products. You:

  • Collect lots of data

  • Prepare lots of action plans

  • Prepare lots of contact lists

  • Distribute lots of extracts and copies

  • And do it securely

There are many products in this area from the US and the UK. It is a small and fragmented market. There is no dominant market leader with a large installed base. Some possibilities:

  • LDRPS - Strohl Systems

  • NeverFail Plan - Global Continuity

  • Revolution - Comdisco

The market leader in terms of dollars shipped is LDRPS. It is not a cheap product!
NeverFail Plan is a recent entrant in this market. It has a good pedigree in that it comes from the Adam Associates / Global Continuity stable, a well known company in this market.
Some DR suppliers have their own software they promote. Revolution from Comdisco is one example.
There are many others. But none are household names, and they will have to be tracked down at specialist web sites and from specialist magazines.

Plan Maintenance
This is a significant part of the BCP work. In fact you will spend far more effort and time maintaining a plan than you spent building it. This has to be a key area for justifying the use of software. Software tools can have real advantage:

  • Tools facilitate repeatability

  • Tools automate the tedious

The use of software tools also has some other advantages, which are evident in both the plan development phase and the plan maintenance phase:

  • Force uniform standards. Can be very important for a large organisation with many sites, and consequently many plans, which may be prepared by many people.

  • 'Proven' approach. DR/BC professionals using a tested approach will have developed the software. It should work.

  • Reduces error. An automated approach has less opportunity for human error.

What Do You Want From Software?
What are some of the things you are looking for from software?

  • Quicker

  • Cheaper

  • Easier

  • Repeatable

  • Better quality

  • Customisable

There are other key requirements:

  • Easy to use

  • Easy to learn

  • User friendly

  • Resource light

  • Reliable

  • Secure

The Methodology
Software tools provide a framework for you to work within. In particular they will come with a standard set or sets of tasks that can be assembled in to your plan or plans. This can be very useful in reducing the time taken to prepare plans and to help in ensuring you have included all the necessary activities.
This can be the most useful part of the software! But is often the part that is least emphasised by the suppliers. They appear often to be more interested in the fact that it is a relational database, easy to use, web enabled, etc.
When reviewing software make sure you get to see the templates and standard lists. The quality / applicability of these for your situation may be a significant factor in the usefulness of the software.

3 Reasons for Buying Software
There are good reasons for considering the use of software.

  1. The methodology / knowledgebase can make a significant difference to the time and quality of the plans. Why re-invent the wheel when you can use someone else's?

  2. Software will impose a discipline on plan structure and format. For a many sited / many plan organisation this can be a real advantage in ensuring company standards are adhered to. Also helps on invocation if staff from other sites are brought in to help as they will be familiar with the look and feel of the plan.

  3. Software may help with the logistics. For a many sited / many plan organisation the software will help with the administration of plan maintenance, in particular if the software can be used remotely via a network link or the company intranet.

3 Reasons for Not Buying Software
There is another alternative.

  1. Consultants may be more effective. A consultant can tailor the approach to fit your environment, something software can not do.

  2. Consultants may be more cost effective. When used only for support on key tasks, with the detailed work being undertaken by you and your staff, a consultant can be a cost-effective approach.

  3. Software may complicate the process. All software has a training requirement, no matter how user friendly. And the more sophisticated the software, the greater the training requirement. Your situation may not justify this overhead.

Does an organisation with 20 sites have 20 plans, or 1 plan with 20 variations? If you have 20 very similar sites you may find you have 20 activity lists that are the same with 20 different contact lists. Keep activities and contacts separate and you may not need the complication of a software tool to maintain the plans.

Conclusion
Software may be for you a very effective and cost-effective investment. But an alternative may be more appropriate. There are alternatives, which may better fit your requirements.
Consultancies, such as Business Evailability, can help in deciding the suitability of software tools for your requirements, identifying appropriate tools, and advising on the tools to be considered.
Consultancies can tailor the planning project to provide you with the right level of support, at the right time for you, at a cost-effective price. Software optional.

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Article by: Dave BowraAbout the author: Dave Bowra MBCI M.INSTIS is the principal of business evailability, a disaster recovery and business continuity consultancy based in Peterborough. He is a member of the Business Continuity Institute and a member of the Institute of Information Security.

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