Tag Archives: technology

Continuity Plan: Analysis

[Note: although many of these steps are applicable to anyone wanting to protect their own research and equipment, for this article and the rest of the series, I will be discussing continuity planning as it pertains to genealogical/historical societies.  At the end of the series, I will discuss how to alter a continuity plan to suit the individual researcher.]

 

The analysis portion is usually the first step for most genealogical societies developing a continuity plan.  And since the plan is best represented as a “life cycle,” it is normal to perform periodic analysis in order to ensure that the plan is up to date.  In my experience, analysis is the most time-consuming and detailed portion of a plan.

Take Inventory of Functions

The first step is to take inventory of all the functions of your society.  And don’t be surprised if you need to take several passes – this is why a continuity plan is set up in a life-cycle format.

Here is a partial list of items, both tangible and non-tangible:

Location

  • Furniture (desks, chairs, bookshelves, tables, lighting)
  • Office space or meeting space (rented or owned)

Communications/Connectivity

  • Fax
  • Telephone
  • Internet Connectivity (modem, DSL, T1, T3, broadband wireless)

Technology

  • Computers
  • Copiers
  • Projectors
  • Readers (microfilm microfiche)
  • Scanners
  • Television
  • VCR/DVD

Research

  • Books
  • Digital media
  • Original source material
  • Maps
  • Periodicals

Membership/Outreach

  • Mailing lists
  • Membership data
  • Name recognition
  • Web presence
  • Website/Blog data

Administration

  • Administration data
  • Board of Directors documents (resolutions, minutes)
  • Contacts (other societies, vendors, etc.)
  • Email (server, mailboxes, archives)
  • History (archives of former board members, minutes, etc.)
  • Non-profit status information (state and federal tax status, etc.)
  • Office supplies

Finances

  • Banking information
  • Membership dues
  • Revenue stream

Critical vs. Non-Critical Functions

Once the functions have initially been identified, the next step is to designate them as being critical to the continued operation and survival of the society or non-critical.  Some factors to consider when making this determination:

  • Are certain functions mandated by law or practice? E.g., annual board meetings, non-profit/tax status, certification, etc.  Realize that a society can forfeit its status with certain organizations if minimum requirements are not met.
  • The lack of which functions would damage the society and in what way? Could these function impact how the society is perceived by members, donors, etc.,?
  • If an interruption of one of these functions were acceptable, at what point would the interruption become unacceptable?  Is it a matter of length of time? Is it a matter of cost and/or maintenance?

Recovery Requirements

Once the functions are identified and classified as critical or non-critical, the next step is to determine what is needed to recover or restore these functions.  For each function, you should list:

  • the time frame for restoration of the function
  • the business requirements for restoration of the function
  • the technical requirements (if applicable) for restoration of the function

Interruption Scenarios

While you can’t cover all scenarios, you can cover those that are likely to happen.  A society located in Florida would probably focus on a hurricane while a California society would focus on an earthquake.  Both societies could include flooding since such a scenario may occur due to a water main break, sprinkler system malfunction, etc.

Some common scenarios include:

  • bomb
  • cyber attack
  • data loss
  • earthquake
  • fire
  • flood
  • power outage
  • theft
  • vandalism

Only list scenarios which require unique solutions for restoration of a function.  Example:  a power outage (either planned, caused by a natural disaster or due to provider malfunction) would not affect functions such as finances (directly – indirectly it would prevent use of computers to update data).  A power outage caused by a simple interruption of service (blackout, etc.) would affect a society minimally (short period of outage) whereas an earthquake or hurricane where surround areas are affected and there is possible infrastructure damage would affect a society quite a bit.

So How Do I Track All This? 

A perfectly valid question.  In reviewing the components of the analysis phase above, most societies will need some tracking mechanism which lists functions, whether they are critical or non-critical, recovery requirements, and which scenario(s) would impact them.

To get a jump start on the process, use this spreadsheet on Google Docs.  While it may not cover all of the items, you are invited to make a copy and customize it for your own use.

Do You Have a Continuity Plan?

Whether you are concerned about the assets of your genealogical/historical society or your own personal family history research, you should consider developing and implementing a Continuity Plan.  While all of us are easily the victims of procrastination, not having a plan ready can mean the difference between being up and running within hours/days or having to spend weeks, months and years recreating data and re-acquiring assets.

What Is Continuity Planning?

Based upon the Business Continuity Plan concept currently utilized in many organizations which can be applied to both societies and individuals as “caretakers” of data, Continuity Planning consists of five separate components arranged in a life-cycle format:

Continuity Plan

Over the course of the next six posts on the topic of Continuity Planning, I’ll be discussing each component in detail as well as a comparison of what should be included within a plan for societies and within a plan for individuals.

Does Continuity Planning Only Involve Technology and Data?

When discussing a plan for “recovery,” be it on a business, non-profit, or personal level, almost everyone first thinks of “intangible assets” such as data.  The next thought involves “tangible assets” such as computers, microfiche/film readers, prints, etc.  But a comprehensive Continuity Plan includes other non-technology related tangible assets often forgotten:

  • books
  • photographs
  • furniture
  • rental or office space
  • supplies, etc.

And don’t forget some frequently overlooked intangible assets such as:

  • web/Internet presence
  • revenue stream
  • name recognition, etc.

Does Continuity Planning Only Involve Disasters?

I wish it were so.  My first encounter with a disaster involving data was in the mid-1980s when I worked for a financial company.  A fire on a lower floor of the large building did not cause water or smoke damage, but it did cause release of asbestos through the entire building.  I lost several personal items, for which I was reimbursed by my employer’s insurance company.  But I was out of work for several days before an alternate workspace location could be secured.  And then we had to recreate data based on outdated backups.  Not much fun.

And in speaking with Kathryn Doyle at the California Genealogical Society and Library, I asked if the society lost any materials during the Great Quake of 1906, and if so, how they dealt with getting back into an “up and running” mode, as it were.  “We lost our collection of 300 books (housed with the secretary of the society at the California Hotel which went up in smoke) in the 1906 earthquake and later advertised for donations across the country.  The Newberry sent several boxes that had belonged to the governor of Pennsylvania which they already owned.”

Kathryn also described how the society dealt with the loss of physical space in a city with a severe shortage of space: “The Fairmont Hotel, which was just weeks from opening on April 18, 1906, was totally gutted. The hotel opened a year later in 1907 after being totally re-done and we rented a space there.”

But there are many other events which a society or a person might encounter that could easily be characterized as disasters:

  • theft of a laptop, computer, USB memory stick or flash drive
  • loss of a research notebook at a library or on an airplane
  • a hard-drive failure
  • vandalism of books, photographs or other related items
  • database file corruption, etc.

The next post in this series will discuss the differences between a continuity plan for historical/genealogical societies and one for an individual pursuing genealogy research.  Stay tuned!

Commentary: The ‘Big Bang’ Already Exploded

Leland Meitzler points us to an article by Jim Beidler [Genealogy’s ‘Big Bang’ Theory]. Here’s a key point:

Simply put, societies have lost members to age and death, while the new folks who would have been inclined to replace them (pre-Internet) instead have chosen to do genealogy in their pajamas from home on their computer desktops.

In other words, the Internet is destroying genealogical societies and the conference business and the spirit of volunteerism that existed before the Internet. I must be living in an alternate universe [mine is VERY digital] because I see an expanding genealogical community thanks to the Internet providing opportunities that were impossible in those pre-Internet days.

Ignoring the impact of the commercial databases for the moment, all the “pajamas people” [I'm a proud member of that group!] have made massive amounts of free genealogical and historical information available to anyone with access to a search engine. Family photos, documents and family histories which once were buried in closets – or worse – have now been scanned and posted to photo-sharing sites, family web sites and blogs. Cousins are finding each other through these sites and sharing even more information using online collaborative efforts like WeRelate.

Online communities have blossomed thanks to online technologies like Internet phone and messaging systems, blogs and email. Individuals involved in these communities generously share their expertise – be it technical, legal, creative or knowledge of a specific area or group. And, because many of us are still working and/or raising families, this community offers the ability to span time and distance – commodities in short supply in many of our lives.

I have enjoyed a much more satisfying experience online than I ever experienced in my local society. I have found kindred souls who provide both support and friendship and many a great digital conversation [yes, even while wearing my PJs].

As for the special collections libraries, university libraries and county historical societies, it’s only a matter of time before their collections are digitized and available to all. And, with today’s affordable online video conferencing, even more of us can attend – and participate in – workshops and conferences from the comfort of our homes [I'd get dressed for that!].

Mr. Beidler should be rejoicing that so many young people are involved in today’s genealogical community and learning how to provide tools they can use to support their efforts.

They are the ones who will be carrying the torch forward . . .

This is a reprint of an article originally posted at Family Matters blog.