YOUR BRIDGE BETWEEN EUROPE AND THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST


Directory Free Newsletter Contact Log in

European-American Topics - Business - Disaster recovery

Overseas disaster recovery: Preparing for the worst
By Stephen D. McLaughlin
Published
November 12

Usually they happen without warning. In most cases there is no way to predict where and when they will strike. They come from the sky, or deep inside the earth, or from the sea and, though usually short-lived, can leave devastating destruction in their wake. Flood, fire, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, tsunami – even acts of human aggression – disasters are part of the reality of the world. One need look no further than the horrible devastation that happened last year in the city of New Orleans to understand the terrible impact disasters can have on lives, property and business. 

American companies spend tens of billions of dollars a year on disaster recovery operations, the purpose of which is to restore performance continuity as quickly as possible, and minimize costly and often devastating downtime periods. Virtually every State and major city has companies in it which specialize in disaster recovery; as well as trained professionals who can quickly and accurately assess what needs to be done and help get your business up and running in the shortest time possible. Many large U.S. companies have internal departments specifically set up to deal with disaster recovery, able to be mobilized at a moment’s notice and on site usually in a matter of a few hours. 

But what about when the disaster that affects your operations happens to an office half a world away, in a country that you are for the most part unfamiliar with and with people for whom English is, at best, a second language? One need only think back to the devastating earthquakes that have hit China, India and Pakistan, the Tsunamis that have devastated portions of Singapore and the Philippines – and even the political disasters that have befallen American business in parts of the former Soviet Union and South America to understand that the risk is very real. One website that I visited recently asked the question: How much unscheduled down time can your business survive. For most mid-sized businesses, the answer was overwhelmingly: UNDER ONE WEEK. 

Here in the United States – though it can be costly – your business can usually get up and running again relatively quickly, due both to the plethora of services available, and the proximity of your key people to the disaster site. Overseas, however, the challenges of recovering from a disaster are multiplied – by distance, time, language, lack of available services and many other possible factors. The way to get your overseas offices up and running after a disaster is to take steps towards recovery before a disaster. Here are just a few things for you to consider, which our experience has shown to be important: 

  • Remote Data Storage – One of the most devastating things that can happen to any business as the result of a disaster is the loss of information. When a mainframe is destroyed and the information stored on it is partially or completely irretrievable, many businesses can be crippled – or even forced under in a matter of days. This can be particularly true of remote overseas offices, in countries where data retrieval systems are not as advanced as they are here in the United States. The most effective way of securing a remote office’s data and giving them the tools to get up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible is to make sure that their data is securely stored off site – preferably at the home office and/or other satellite locations. The simplest way to ensure that this happens smoothly is to have your IT professionals set up a real time data transfer protocol via your company’s Intranet which will, in essence, automatically transfer all your remote office’s data to the other mainframes you select as it is generated, in real time. By doing this, the information can then be sent back to the remote office as soon as new quarters and equipment are secured.

  • Secondary Call Center – If the call center you use in your United States operations is disrupted or destroyed by disaster, it is usually a relatively simple matter to find a back-up that will be able to, at least temporarily, keep your business running and service your customers. This is not always the case with overseas offices and call centers. Depending on where your remote office is located – and the severity of the disaster in question – there could easily be a considerable amount of competition for the services of call centers surviving “in country” – if, indeed, there are any available. While it is possible that you could transfer operations to your U.S. call centers, language can become an issue depending on the location of the customers you need to call. The best way to ensure that you have a call center available to you is to make arrangements with a secondary call center that is already staffed with personnel who speak the language you need spoken before you need them (India and Singapore are known for their multi-language services).

  • Emergency Staffing -- Disasters, unfortunately, do not only happen to buildings and equipment – they happen to people too. Depending on the type and severity of the disaster in question, it is very possible that some of your key onsite people will be unable to work for extended periods – due either to injury or their own personal disaster recovery efforts geared towards friends and family. Depending on the location of your overseas operation it might be possible to get people there from your home office, but this is almost never expedient or cost effective. The best way to make sure that your overseas operation has access to qualified replacement staff quickly is to make sure that you have retained the services of a good executive search and staffing consultant before disaster strikes.

In most cases it is impossible to predict when a disaster will strike your overseas offices – but it is not impossible to be ready for them when they hit. By planning in advance, and making arrangements with people who have the expertise to act quickly and efficiently, the damage caused to your operation by a disaster can be greatly minimized. It will require some work on your part but, in the end, those days or weeks you save getting up and running again will be worth it! 

Author Bio:  Steve McLaughlin founded Global Market Insights, with offices in Europe and the U.S., with his vision of giving clients two synergistic competencies: knowledge of the global marketplace and industry expertise in manufacturing, finance and information technology. Steve has over twelve years of international experience in three continents, having started in executive search as a Beckett-Rogers Associate. Steve is a graduate of Rice University, where he was student body president, and completed post-graduate studies in International Economics at the Universidad Mayor, Santiago, Chile. He is available for consultation and can be contacted directly by Email: smclaughlin@gmi.lu or Phone: 352-26364921. Additional information is located on his website: http://www.gmi.lu


© 2006 All content property of European Weekly unless where otherwise accredited