MegaPath Releases Business Continuity Planning Checklist

List reviews what every business should know

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MegaPath, Inc. has released its Business Continuity Planning (BCP) Checklist to help organizations of all sizes prepare for disruptions in business operations including natural disasters, pandemics, and outbreaks. As companies prepare for the H1N1 virus and keep employee health a primary concern, owners and managers need to ensure that work continues in the event of an office shut down.

“Enterprises with multiple data centers have business continuity planning down to a science, and other businesses can learn a lot from them. Having a plan that ensures business as usual in the wake of a natural or manmade disaster will instill confidence among your customers and partners,” said Janet Wong, Senior Product Manager, MegaPath. “While adjustments will be made to daily operations, it doesn’t mean that work comes to a full stop. With the right voice and data solutions in place, employees can still communicate internally or with external third parties.”

MegaPath’s Business Continuity Planning Checklist

Designate a team: An effective business continuity plan should involve input from management, the chief security officer, the IT department, Web developer, and human resources. These key departments can ensure the company runs smoothly in times of crisis while taking into account the needs of their employees.

Identify key personnel: Determine which executives and employees are critical to operating the business (and supporting customers) that need to have access to key systems and information at all time. A business continuity plan must ensure these employees receive the highest levels of support, even during the most disruptive events.

Plan for spikes: Before an emergency occurs, businesses must plan ahead for increased network bandwidth and secured remote access requirements. Implementing scalable solutions will enable organizations to increase user licenses to the VPN and Internet connections in real time.

Choose a flexible secure communications solution: There are many to choose from, but an SSL VPN is one of the leading solutions to provide flexible, remote access, which is essential to any business continuity plan. This technology enables access -- via a Web browser -- to sensitive corporate and customer data that exists on an enterprise network from remote locations. The SSL solution should be redundant and scalable to account for the increased spike in traffic and should be integrated into the overall disaster recovery plan.

Create a single entry point: Create a business continuity portal for employees and partners. If the company has an Intranet, this site becomes command central from which employees can access information -- HR policies, emergency contacts, and a "click here to access SSL VPN" feature. As this Intranet would become the main source of information, it is vital to ensure that it is fast and reliable for employees no matter where they are located.

Coordinate a secondary back-up site: Should the primary site be unavailable, companies should have a real-time mirror of data housed at a secure facility. If configured correctly, organizations can provide an automatic failover between locations so that any forwarding is seamless to employees as they conduct business with no impact to productivity.

Replicate non-real time data: In the event that the secondary site is unavailable, organizations should plan for multiple layers of failover. If users cannot access real-time data via the back-up location, a third-tier facility with updates, but not real-time data, can provide most of the necessary tools to keep the business operational until the secondary facilities come back online.

Ensure access from any device: With mobile devices and air cards now permeating the executive suite and used by key employees, IT departments can leverage these tools to ensure complete connectivity in times of emergencies. However, organizations must first conduct a thorough review of remote access policies in order to protect the data these devices are accessing.

Pre-arrange “on-the-fly” meeting capabilities: In the event of an office closure, employees still need to communicate internally or with external parties (e.g., suppliers and customers). Providing Web and audio conferencing to remote locations and offsite workers keeps the communication lines open, especially with those unaffected by the office closure.

Review number of sites and VPN gateways: Businesses need to have multiple channels for employees to gain access in case of fail over. Conducting a yearly audit will provide a complete picture of your network and the ability to address problem areas before a disaster strikes.

Test, test, and retest: Typically, companies today test their disaster recovery facility (or facilities) and remote access policies about once a year. These "fire drills" enable companies to see how the current system is working, especially when employees are accessing information from remote locations (i.e. from home, a relative’s house, and hotel). Once complete, those in management, IT, and human resources can modify their business continuity plan accordingly.

More information about MegaPath is available at www.megapath.com.