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Your Vendor’s Disaster Recovery Plans: 8 Things to Watch Out For

Jun 12, 2019 by Gordon Rudd, CISSP

Third party risk management today is like performing a high-wire act without a net. There is so much that can go wrong at any point in time and some things with disastrous consequences. One of the steps you can take to minimize the risk posed by any vendor is to review their business continuity and disaster recovery plans.

Disaster Recovery Plans Matter

Disasters happen. They’re either natural or man-made and range in form every day, such as an extended power outage, to the extreme like a hurricane or a terrorist act. The only thing certain in disaster recovery planning is that a disruption will happen. 

Business continuity planning (BCP) and disaster recovery planning (DRP) are twin sons of different mothers. BCP focuses on business resiliency, meaning what the business can do to sustain itself over time. A BCP’s focus is more strategic and outlines how to recover the entire organization from any disaster. BCP also addresses issues like succession planning and the overall strategic continuity of business operations.

A disaster recovery plan is a tactical, feet on the street plan to restore data and critical applications in the event systems are unavailable or destroyed when an event occurs. Every DRP focuses on the recovery of three specific parts of business operations, for every business unit in the company which is the people, facilities and systems – in that order. DRPs focus on exactly who, what, when, where and how the company will recover after a disaster. Specific recovery processes and procedures are the backbone of a good DRP.

8 Things to Watch Out for in Your Vendor’s Disaster Recovery Plan

Watch out for these 8 things in your vendor’s disaster recovery plan as they could be of concern:

  1. First and foremost, no BCP/DRP at all. This is, of course, a huge indicator of future issues.

Many times, you will find a DRP that focuses exclusively on the recovery of technology and computer systems. If you find a DRP that focuses on technology exclusively, the plan may have a fatal flaw. The authors of the plan probably believe recovering IT will carry the day for the enterprise. Unfortunately, that’s a very short-sighted view. People operate the systems. People need a place from which to operate the systems before the systems can function properly.

  1. There aren’t two separate plans. When you’re performing your due diligence, either as part of your preliminary due diligence or as part of your annual due diligence review, you want to see the two separate plans – one for BCP and one for DRP, even if they are in a single document. If you don’t receive separate plans, then the vendor may not be adequately prepared in the event a disaster strikes.

  1. There are no communication plans established. They should explain who will notify who and when.

  1. The plan lacks an adequate recovery facility or inadequate systems recovery planning. Basically, the vendor doesn’t have a contract in place with a recovery facility. If the vendor tells you the backup system is a server in a closet at the company president’s house, then that’s an issue. True story! It does happen.

  1. Lack of regular backups and regular recovery testing. The DRP should be tested annually, at least, and retested more frequently if issues are discovered.
     
  1. You don’t see pandemic plans. You should find plans that explain how the business will continue to sustain operations if they experience a disaster.
     
  1. A plan that doesn’t align with your organization’s expectations. If any vendor’s recovery times and recovery points don’t closely align with your organization’s recovery time and recovery point objectives, the variance may cause your organization to fail. You always look for your vendor’s recovery times and recovery points to fall well within your recovery times and your recovery points. A vendor should not cause your organization’s recovery times and recovery points to have to be extended.

DRPs are not rocket science, but they are a lot of hard work. Some vendors will not have the time, money or the inclination to put in the work. The adage, “plan the work and work the plan” is never more real than it is in business continuity and disaster recovery. If your vendor can’t deliver evidence of appropriate BCP/DRP planning and testing, it’s time to look for a new vendor. Especially, if you have the vendor on your critical vendor list.

Do your vendors have appropriate measures in place to protect you? Download the infographic.

Vendor Business Continuity for Third Parties

Gordon Rudd, CISSP

Written by Gordon Rudd, CISSP

Gordon Rudd is a Third Party Risk Officer at Venminder. Gordon has more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry in the areas of third party risk management, technology, information security, enterprise risk management and GRC (Governance, Risk Management and Compliance) program development. Gordon works with the Venminder delivery team as a third party risk management and cybersecurity subject matter expert in residence.

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