My 7th grade son came home a few days ago and told my wife and I that they’d had a drill at school to prepare for an active shooter situation. The school had done a great job of notifying parents in advance that this drill was going to take place, so we weren’t caught off guard, but it’s still a sad reality that our schools have to prepare for situations like this. “Back in the day” all we had to worry about were fire drills and tornado drills.

Think back to those days in your own life. What did they include? There was a map hanging on the door that told you how to get to safety. The teacher talked about what to do if the alarm went off. But even with all this head knowledge and planning, the alarm would still go off every few months and the entire school would go through the motions of an actual drill.

Over the last 3 months I’ve written about disaster preparedness and business continuity. We’ve covered this from a high level and touched on backups, redundancy, and the reliability of cloud-based services. Many of these practices are straightforward to plan for and implement, but is that enough? Using the school fire drill analogy – how can we put these plans into practice using drills, tests, and practice scenarios?

Having knowledge that your data is backed up to the cloud is great, but when your server crashes and you’re told it will take a week to download all of that data back down or that you need to pay an extra $5,000 for expedited service from your provider, will you be caught off guard? The same head knowledge goes only so far in day-to-day scenarios… how will your business continue to operate when the internet goes down? Do you send everyone home or ask employees to use their personal hotspots?

The best strategy is only as good as its ability to be executed. It may seem like a costly and time consuming effort, but a business continuity plan that includes an annual drill can spotlight weak points that must be corrected, pain points that may simply have to be lived with, or even areas of overkill where resources can be redirected.

As we wrap up this series on disaster recovery and preparedness, I’d encourage you to reach out to your technology partner and ask them how they’d like to put their plan to the test. These teams are often asked to trim all the excess they can from budgets, and practicing a plan they hope to never need is one of the first things to go. Providing some resources to put the plan to the test not only builds confidence but can also save large amounts of downtime and unexpected expense down the road.

As always, I welcome your questions and feedback on these columns. If you have a plan you’d like reviewed or don’t have a plan at all, give us a call. We’d love to help you bring more stability to your business technology platforms.

Written by Chet Cromer for publication in the Business Leader