What Would You do if You Lost EVERYTHING?

Business people rely almost totally on the safe storage of data on
computer servers. Mission critical businesses such as control rooms,
banks, security, emergency services and call centres rely on 24 hour
continuous access to their client files and system data.

Imagine the worst thing that could happen to your business – the total
destruction of your offices, files and computer services.

Would you be able to survive such a catastrophe and, how long would it
take you to be up and running and trading afterwards.

Disater recovery is also refered to as Business continuity planning.
The Wikipedia definition of Business continuity planning (BCP) is the
creation and validation of a practiced logistical plan for how an
organization will recover and restore partially or completely
interrupted critical (urgent) functions within a
predetermined time after a disaster or extended disruption. The
logistical plan is called a business continuity plan.

There is one company that has got the ability to recover from a total
catastrophe down to 30 MINUTES. This after a hard lesson on 17 January
2009 when at 02:45 a.m a fire totally destroyed the Tracker Head Office
and Control Room. On this occasion it was at 05:45 a.m. that Tracker
had essential services up and running in a nearby Disaster Recovery

At breakfast on 18 May at the Summerstrand
, Andre Ackerman and
Michael Niewoudt from Tracker
took members of PERCCI
and The Insurance
Institute of South Africa as well as invited guests through their
succesful Disaster Recovery Plan.

PERCCI CEO, Kevin Hustler wasn’t wrong when he said that such events
were; “an opportunity to see and experience best practise in action”.

Tracker Sales Director, Michael Niewoudt highlighted that everyone’s
favourite definition of a disaster is; “…something that happens to
other people in other places!” A mission critical business monitoring
500 000 vehicles has to have a continuously updated Disaster Recovery
Plan in place.

Pointing out that the fire led to R50 million in claims, Tracker
Financial Director, Andre Ackerman said; “To us, that morning was a
rude awakening.”

Ackerman spoke about the
three main areas that led to Tracker’s succesful Disaster Recovery:

  1. Protecting the Brand
  2. The neccesity of a current Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP)
  3. The Role of Technology

There is an old adage around the sale of advertising – “A businessman
is approached to advertise his product and he says No, time and time
again, until eventually he is forced to advertise: BUSINESS FOR SALE.”

I get the sense that Tracker only received good press after the
disaster as a result of their ‘playing the PR game’ well and from an
early stage, well before the fire, when they recognised that they may
‘need’ good press at some time in the future.

An example of good press: Tracker’s Communications Manager, Gareth
Crocker was phoned by Talk Radio 702 only minutes after being informed
of the blaze at 02:25 a.m. It took Gareth less than 1 hour and 45
minutes to grant 702 the first media interview at 04:30 a.m. with a
‘holding statement’ that only the top floor was ablaze, that the
Disaster Recovery Plan was being implemented and that tracking of
vehicles would not be affected.

If Gareth had not had a pre-existing relationship and experience with
the media he would not have been in a position to emphasise the
positive in the situation nor would he have been able to stall new
hungry media eager to be the first to break the story.

The steps taken to
Protect the Brand were:

  1. Media and Press Releases sent out immediately
  2. Communication of the situation to staff and stakeholders
  3. Purchase of Adspace emphasising “Business as Usual”
  4. Monitoring and responding to all online blogs and social
    media sites mentioning
    the blaze
  5. Placement of advertorial
  6. Constant contact with the media

Allied with the above all staff were aware that any media enquiries
were to be refered to Gareth Crocker, scripts were prepared to field
client and stakeholder queries and 500 employees moved to the Disaster
Recovery site to sit down in front of PC’s that completely mirrored
their lost work stations.

The recovery of critical services took 3 hours, execution of the total
Disaster Recovery Plan took 6 days and the preparation of the Disaster
Recovery Plan took months and years of updates.

One cannot emphasise the correct handling of the media enough because
in it’s abscence what was a positive experience could have been a total
disaster even if the DRP and the technology sytems were flawlessly
executed. Andre Ackerman emphasised that the best path in dealing with
media was to be honest and not try hide anything. Contact
one of Port
Elizabeth’s PR Specialists
to learn more.

What else went in
Tracker’s favour?

  • They spent money on keeping their DRP up to date
  • They spent money on a remote Disater Recovery Site
  • They invested in a real time fibre optic link to keep their
    servers in the Disaster Recovery Site continuously replicated
  • They practiced what would happen in the event of a total
    disaster and continue to do so
  • They had good relationships with clients and suppliers who
    were willing to issue equipment on a Sunday without order numbers or

After the breakfast I asked around to see if any of the business
leaders present had knowledge of a Disaster Recovery Site or Business
continuity planning company in Port Elizabeth. Most present indicated
that they had reciprocal arrangements with peers within their industry
but none had knowledge of any such available sites in Port Elizabeth.
It could be a good idea for someone looking for a new industry to

Maybe PERCCI could offer such a service?

I was reffered to business continuity planning firm, Continuity
, though, who have
offices in Gauteng and the Western Cape.

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