Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Disaster planning for your technology

Taming the technology beast can be a daunting prospect for many nonprofits, particularly when it comes to emergency preparedness. Taming that beast involves a detailed assessment of your organization’s current processes and systems.

Dennis Bagley, manager, and Michael Harnish CPA, Associate, technology, consulting and solutions at Plante & Moran provided an assessment questionnaire during the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ Not-For-Profit Financial Executive Forum. Scoring is on a basis of 0 to 5 with no being 0 and 1, sort of and 5 for yes.

1. Within the past 12 months, has your organization made a detailed assessment of all its computer applications and identified which ones are of top priority in supporting routine business operations?
2. Based on the results of study and analysis, do you know the estimated dollar losses your organization would suffer if it had a computer or network outage for a week, two weeks, a month?
3. Do you think the quality and completeness of your organization’s documentation and operating instructions for information systems would enable otherwise qualified strangers to understand and operate your systems without undue delay, research and guesswork?
4. Does your organization back up computer tapes (or diskettes) off-premises, so that at least minor recovery operations might be performed?
5. When was the last time you inventoried your organization’s computer backups to ensure that all needed files are being kept? (Be sure to consider your newer applications and changes to older ones)
6. Within the past 18 months, have you formally surveyed or interviewed key representatives from departments that use and rely on your computers or network to obtain their views on what kind of manual or semi-automated processing could be accomplished if all services were suddenly cut off for periods ranging up to one month?
7. Does your organization have an up-to-date, detailed, written set of procedures on what to do in an emergency and on exactly how recovery operations would go forward if your computer facilities were destroyed or made inaccessible?
8. Has your organization performed tests under simulated disaster conditions in order to help verify that its computer processing can be accomplished at an alternate computer site under whatever provisions your organization has for backup and recovery operations?

A score of 40 indicates a good state of emergency preparedness; 30-39 shows a need for additional attention in some areas. Consider strengthening your disaster recovery plan in areas of relative weakness; 20-29 indicates you are unprepared for potential difficulties that could have been foreseen and avoided. Address the indicated weaknesses in your recovery plan; 10-19 shows very spotty attention to a number of key areas. Significant difficulties and delays in data recovery can be expected. Prompt corrective action is advised; 1-9 shows little attention has been given to a disaster recovery plan. A system disaster is sure to be very costly. A task force should be chartered immediately to address the development of a plan;
0 – Indicates the need for divine intervention to preclude major dollar losses and delays should you experience a disaster

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