As a former resident of Southern California, the horrific news over the last several months of natural disasters like tornadoes and tropical storms all over the country and world has brought back memories of the times when earthquakes or large fires would bring the LA area to a standstill, as workers struggled to help people and to bring vital services back online. Because of this experience, when a discussion turns in the direction of “being prepared” I always say, “It’s not a matter of if it happens… it’s a matter of when it happens.” Some people call me a pessimist, but I would like to think I’m simply being a realist. I believe in being adequately prepared: simply meaning that one should put themselves in the best possible position to deal with a major problem or emergency.
This belief doesn’t just apply to me or my loved ones. When I think about planning for an emergency, I think right away about school districts like the ones that Tyler Technologies provides services to. My hope is that every school district has a realistic and manageable disaster recovery plan in place and that it specifically and adequately addresses their technology needs. Right after the need to get power restored, bringing key enterprise solutions back online is a major step in the process of “getting back to normal.” If your district has not recently reviewed and evaluated the technology aspects of its current disaster recovery plan, today is a good time to schedule that kick-off meeting.
A good starting point in the review would be to contact the providers of any key enterprise software solutions that you use at the district to determine what services or expertise they can provide in a worst-case-scenario. Any provider that has a long-standing association with the K-12 community should have sufficient expertise to assist you with the answering of questions like:
- Is our data being backed up?
- Should we move our solutions to ‘the cloud’?
- What are our options if electricity is up but our fiber connection to the Internet is down?
- Who do we contact in the case of emergency? Are they available 24/7?
- Do we have resources available if we need on-site or in-person assistance?
- Do we have to pay for ongoing maintenance or support? If so, are our payments current?
- Do we have a way to recover lost user data?
- What do we do if we have lost all our hardware?
If you can answer these questions you are well on your way to disaster preparedness.
However, I do have to emphasize that a plan on paper is only one key element of being prepared. Whenever a plan is put to the test its weaknesses will stand out, so just having a plan is not enough. Some level of testing of the plan — drills, review by an expert, etc. — should be done to point out deficiencies or areas that need improvement.
Staff turnover is another consideration. Insure that all staff members are up-to-speed on the plan by reviewing the details with them on a regular basis. That way, when disaster strikes, you can move forward immediately with your recovery plans.