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Finding the Right Disaster Recovery Provider

By Susan Cotter, Senior Program Manager/Analyst

Transactional printers often work under very tight client deadlines and aggressive SLAs, so when they’re hit by something like a hurricane, earthquake, flood, tornado or fire, it has the potential of being a disaster for both the enterprise and its clients. The solution is to find a disaster recovery provider or another printer that can be trusted to get those critical jobs out on time – or as near on time as possible.

There are two kinds of disaster recovery provider (DRP) services. Cold DRP services are dedicated to disaster recovery. The way they typically work is to run regularly scheduled tests throughout the year so they’re prepared to jump into action should your operation make a disaster declaration. In the case of a disaster, cold DRPs should be prepared to accept your work and begin producing your output within 48 hours. They can be expensive, however.

The second type, warm DRPs, usually are less costly. These companies typically have their own print customers but reserve capacity to take on the extra work when necessary. Warm DRPs may run live production for their clients on a regular basis, as well as test jobs to ensure they can duplicate your finished product as closely as possible. The chief drawback here is that warm DRPs do have their own print customers who may claim top priority in a nationwide or regional disaster situation.

Within the framework of these two options, you have several other important things to decide before a making a commitment:

  • Capacity. Does the DRP have the production capacity to take on your work and get it out in a reasonable time? This is usually within about 48 hours.
  • Testing Strategy and Quality. Work out a strategy with your DRP about how often you will hand them test work – weekly, monthly, quarterly. This is also when you need to set quality standards and/or decide what might be an acceptable alternative, like printing your color jobs in black and white.
  • Prioritize Your Jobs. What needs to get done first? Rank your critical jobs first, second, third, and so on, and make certain your DRP is prepared to produce them with the correct paper stock, envelopes, perforations and other components.

Above all, set realistic expectations. The DRP may not be able to replicate your work exactly, so determine what is acceptable quality for you and your customers. Location is another factor. If a hurricane impacts the entire East Coast, for instance, and affects both your shop and the DRP, this can cause significant delays. Does your DRP have a backup, or can you work with them if they’re located some distance away? Finally, while your shop is down, you might consider arranging to have one of your own staff on site with the DRP in an advisory or quality control role.

By definition, a disaster is something you don’t count on and cannot immediately control. The very best you can do is to be prepared.

Over the past two decades, Madison Advisors' industry-neutral expertise enables enterprise organizations, service providers and technology providers to achieve their strategic objectives around today’s evolving customer communications management (CCM) requirements.
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