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SPECIAL FEATURE: The disaster recovery plan

Robyn Hall

December 18, 2013

It is therefore imperative to have a detailed plan in place on what to do should something happen that interrupts your business. This is equally true for any non-FCA authorised business as it is good business practice, which will include all of your commercial or personal clients who own or run their own businesses.

More than just having the right business interruption insurance in place, it’s about being able to continue to trade. And if you are reading this thinking “it won’t happen to our business”, here is a true story (as those of you who contacted us on 1st or 2nd October will know) to demonstrate the importance of having a good disaster recovery plan.

At around 3.00pm on Tuesday 1st October, I was on our stand at the Financial Services Exhibition in London, talking to an agent when my colleague tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to take an urgent phone call from our Operations Manager at our head office in Lewes. The reason for the call was that a fire alarm in the building had sounded and on evacuating our offices on the 3rd floor it became clear that there was a fire coming from the electricity supply board serving the 1st floor business.

The fire brigade attended within minutes and quickly brought the blaze under control but it was clear significant damage had been caused to the electricity supply and that we would not be allowed back into the building on the day. We acted quickly in line with our plan and within 30 minutes of the fire happening, a message had been placed both on our web site and our phone system to explain that our offices were temporarily unattended due to a fire evacuation. With no mains power, our UPS battery back up kicked in and kept the phone system answer machine running for the rest of the day.

What more could go wrong I hear you ask – well this was the week our compliance service were holding an internal regulatory audit of the business, and only the day before I was discussing with the auditor our disaster recovery plan. Now here he is, sitting in our office when a fire happens, putting it to the test.

On the instruction of the property management company, an electrician was on site within the hour but the damage was so significant that it took until midnight to replace the power boards. We gained access again at 7.30 Wednesday morning and powered back up all our IT services with the exception of our phone system which was still out as the resulting power surge when the power was restored had taken out the supply in the phone system meaning that we could not make or receive calls and had no recorded message. But rather than risking our clients assuming that we just hadn’t turned up for business, a quick call and e-mail to BT and all our lines were re-routed within minutes. As part of our DR plan we have a maintenance contract on the phone system and this kicked in. Within the hour an engineer was on site and a new system was installed the same day. We all breathed a sigh of relief that normal service had been resumed.

The moral of this story? Because we had in place a robust plan on what to do in an emergency and had ensured that important services, such as our website and web based quote systems, did not need us to be present in our office to work, many advisers were unaware that we had even experienced such a major problem and had been able to continue to quote and apply for policies and receive policy documents as normal. Additionally, because we held all necessary data off site we could quickly contact the appropriate suppliers for them to take action to rectify the situation and provide the necessary support we needed.

I am proud of my team and network of suppliers for knowing the plan and reacting in exactly the right way. Without this plan in place I dread to think what damage might have been done to our business and we certainly would not have been back up and running in such a short space of time. Thank you also too our agents for bearing with us.

Don’t get caught out thinking this wont happen to you – it can and does. Plan for the worst and if you are unlucky enough that an incident occurs outside of your control you will be so thankful you invested the time and effort.


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