standing of your SLAs are in order, and what, if any, abeyance
will you receive in the event that some sort of business interruption were to take place.
Based on the factors above, and evaluating the ability of
your facilities to produce the documents, and at what rate, can
you maintain your SLAs to keep yourself compliant with your
internal policies, your customers, and even government regulations?
Does having the capability mean it’s the right thing to
The technical capability to print and insert the documents is
an important piece of the decision making process, but not the
The next part of the decision process after “can we” is “should
A number of companies today have chosen self recovery as
their method of meeting their disaster recovery requirements primarily in an effort to reduce costs.
But does it really save? There are some significant soft costs to
be considered when evaluating the true cost of self recovery.
Capacity – Does the capacity really exist at a remote facility to produce all of the required documents? That would require
significant unused assets (hardware, IT, personnel) which could
indicate an underperforming unit. This brings to mind several
n Since it is unlikely that sufficient staffing exists at the remote location,
how will the additional staff to operate additional shifts and pieces of
equipment be obtained, and how long will it take to be operational?
n If you’re utilizing a third-party service bureau to produce your documents,
how do you gain the confidence that this capacity exists and is readily
available in the event of a business interruption? One important
item of note when utilizing third-party processors: Virtually all of the
liabilities remain with you, even though you are no longer processing
the documents. Violations of regulations such as HIPAA can be very
expensive. How do you know ALL requirements are being met ALL the
n In today’s demanding financial climate, underperforming units are often
closed, sold off, or otherwise redirected. It’s a bit of a dichotomy, excess
capacity is needed for a remote recovery, but a plant with significant
excess capacity is often considered to have a target painted on its back?
How do you protect yourself in this environment?
Hard Costs – Obviously printing and mailing technology has
grown significantly more intelligent, capable, and expensive over
the last few years. Acquiring new technology at the main facility
may require a technological upgrade at the backup facility.
What is the hard cost associated with ramping up additional
shifts at an existing facility?
Several years ago there was a trend to build smaller satellite
facilities to handle growth and self recovery. In many cases, the
cost of operating an additional brick and mortar facility with personnel, equipment, utilities, etc. far outweighed the incremental
cost for simply adding capacity at the main print and mail facility.
Some of these satellite facilities are being reassigned, or shut
down completely in cost containment efforts.
Testing is an absolute requirement that entails both hard and
36 DISASTER RECOVERY JOURNAL FALL 2009
soft costs. Preparation of the tests, transmission of the data, etc.
are all soft costs. Employee travel, materials, etc. are all hard
Soft Costs – In addition to the factors above there are a myriad
of soft costs to be considered.
n Lost opportunity — as has been pointed out previously, capacity can
be somewhat elusive to define. In the event of a business interruption
and should a conflict arise, something has to give. What is the cost of a
normal production item that does not get produced, or what is the cost of
a new opportunity that must be turned away?
n Quality — One of the most difficult components on which to assign a cost
is that of poor quality. Consider the activity required to start a non-existent
second shift with new personnel running unfamiliar applications. The
opportunity for mistakes is significantly higher in this environment.
n IT — Jobs and data must be transmitted to the remote site, and significant
care must be taken to assure there are sufficient communication lines,
printer resources, etc., to be successful. IT resources are not free, and
perhaps more importantly, are often not readily available. While not as
visible as some items, these are real costs.
n Change management — One of the most difficult, and most commonly
overlooked, component of self recovery is the change management
process. Constant monitoring to make sure that all changes, no matter
how minor, are recorded and placed in the remote libraries to make
certain the documents can be produced flawlessly in the event of an
interruption. The worst time to try to reconcile changes is after the
interruption has been declared.
Balancing Need, Economy, Reliability
We’ve discussed the need for print and mail disaster recovery. Once you’ve performed the internal analysis as to whether
or not you can do it or should do it yourselves, the next step
should be a detailed evaluation of a third party print and mail
disaster recovery solution that is customized for your needs.
Consideration should be given to whether the recovery is a full
recovery (where all documents are printed) or a partial recovery
(where a priority is set up and only the more critical documents
A disaster recovery team, much like the business continuity
team at your company, should be appointed and specific ownerships detailed, so that all of the things we touched on (and the
many we didn’t) are solidified with documented processes.
If you’ve outsourced your print and mail production, it’s a
much more difficult evaluation, as you’re moved even one more
step from the solution. Clear documentation and frequent testing
in a real time environment would seem to be in order to maintain confidence that, in the event of a business interruption, your
documents receive the attention they would if you were producing them.
It’s important to determine your critical communications/
disaster recovery needs prior to deciding to self recover or go to
traditional dedicated recovery providers.
If you’re lucky enough to have an organization with multiple
geographically separated production facilities, it would be prudent to undertake a careful evaluation of your recovery needs
and options. At first glance, self recovery, when possible, often
appears to be the appropriate choice.