By Dan Chevalier, VP of Business Development and Principal Analyst, Madison Advisors
2020 is showing us it’s more important than ever to be prepared for anything—and it’s a great time to talk about what teams involved with customer communications should be thinking about when it comes to disaster recovery (DR) and proven best practices for moving forward. DR programs for both enterprise in-house and print service providers were launched around the mid-1990s to ensure that even in the case of a disaster of some kind, the mission-critical work would still get into the mail and to customers on time. These critical documents vary from business to business, but usually include transactional customer communications like invoices, statements, checks and disclosures, that are produced and handed over to the U.S. Postal Service or output via an electronic media channel—all within a strict timeframe. Critical document production also involves agreed-upon service level agreements or regulatory governed mailing requirements, so if the deadline isn’t met, there are penalties attached.
There are different types of backup services a transactional print company can use, such as cold DR services, which are in business solely to provide backup services for its customers. Though a cold DR service may offer a stronger guarantee of getting your work done, it can be costly. They often require monthly retainer payments whether you use them that month or not, plus additional costs when you declare a disaster and need them to produce your work.
Today there are other options for DR services, warm DR or business continuity planning (BCP). These organizations usually have clients they serve regularly; however, they also have a certain amount of reserve production capacity so they can produce your critical jobs in case of business disruption of any length of time, particularly when the disaster is confined to your shop, such as disabled equipment, power outages, etc. BCP providers are generally less expensive than cold DR providers, but there is the risk that in the case of a widespread disaster that also affects many of their own regular customers, their excess capacity could be consumed quickly.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, both DR and BCP providers have found themselves facing the same challenges as the people they serve. Depending on their locations, they were locked down or their employees contracted the virus or were quarantined. Some companies have had to manage with thinner staffing for social distancing and other precautions and production was slower and/or spread out over several shifts. In any case, the whole concept of how to deal with a global catastrophe, as opposed to a relatively simple geographically confined disaster, has been undergoing some rethinking.
In our experience, we recommend taking the initiative today to develop strategic partnerships with multiple BCPs, in addition to having solid procedures in place for what do in the event of a local, regional, nationwide or global disaster. While you can, work with the BCP providers on producing some of your critical jobs, so they’ll be prepared to run them when it’s absolutely necessary. Use them for overflow work and even consider shutting down some of your in-house capacity and working with them as a third-party print service provider, for some (if not all) of your work. The idea is to establish multiple resources so that if one partner is unable to back you up, you’ve got others to turn to that are ready and able to help you out. As we’ve all seen, business had to go on and requirements have to be met regardless of forces outside our control. Stay safe and healthy and remember that while you can’t predict the unexpected, you can plan for it.
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