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As with prior hurricanes, Florence is a reminder to all organizations of the importance of disaster recovery planning. When a storm approaches, a business’s first concern is protecting its employees/customers, and then its physical property. However, we shouldn’t forget that a natural disaster can also destroy information and technology assets critical to its success and continuity. Key steps to prepare and respond to a natural disaster can help minimize the blow. There are many aspects to comprehensive disaster recovery planning.

Below are some recommended best practices for an effective disaster recovery plan:

  1. Build the Right Team. Companies should be clear about what they are setting out to do and involve the appropriate segments of their organizations. Disasters do not just affect IT departments, they also affect the sales force, human resources, legal, finance, and management. Leadership from these and other business segments need to be at the table to ensure, among other things, appropriate coordination among the segments and an awareness of all available company resources. Excluding critical segments from the process will make it difficult to carry out the next critical step – assessing the risks. The IT department, whether internal or through a third-party vendor, must be well versed in disaster response.
  2. Conduct a Risk Assessment. Before an organization can develop a disaster recovery plan, it must first identify the information and technology assets it needs to protect, their locations, their role in the success of the business, their associated costs and the overall and specific risks that apply to those assets. Different disasters pose different risks and require different safeguards. It also is important to analyze how the organization’s operations would be affected upon the loss of vital components and assets, including identifying what information and technology systems are needed to safely keep the doors open.
  3. Employee/Customer Safety. Information and technology assets are critically important, but not at the expense of human life. Employees should be provided with guidelines on how to ensure their safety and that of customers, and be reminded that personal safety comes first.
  4. Develop a Plan. Having involved key personnel and assessed the risks, the organization is in a position to develop an enterprise-wide disaster recovery plan. The disaster recovery plan should be in writing and include the following:
    • Keep it short. If your plan is too long, it will be difficult to absorb particularly in a difficult situation.
    • Backup regularly and keep backups off site, in a safe location. Frequent and regular backups are critical to ensuring the preservation of important organization data, as well as the data it may maintain for others. A safe location also is critical. If a data center in lower Manhattan is underwater, being able to switch to another in California, Texas or the cloud will be essential to business continuity. The same is true for voice and electronic communications systems. Having critical business data replicated and stored off-site is a good “insurance policy” for any organization.
    • Data Encryption. Encryption of sensitive and/or critical business data will prevent unauthorized users from gaining access and limit exposure.
    • Don’t neglect laptops/mobile devices. Recovery plans tend to focus on the data center, however approximately two thirds of corporate data exists outside the data center. Moreover, laptops/mobile devices are far less resilient, for example, than data center servers.
    • Employee Training. No one likes fire drills, but they serve a valuable purpose. Make your employees aware of the risks and steps they must take in case of a disaster.
    • Test for recovery. Perform random recovery tests periodically. Audit the test, and confirm that all your data is recovered.
  5. Practice the Plan. When disaster strikes, the organization’s disaster recovery team will have to move quickly. Preparedness, therefore, is key. To be prepared, organizations should practice their plans to ensure personnel are ready to go.
  6. Update the Plan. As your organization changes, grows, and adds locations and new people, the disaster recovery plan also may need to change. A regular review of the plan is critical.

So, as you clean up from Florence or think about how your organization might be similarly vulnerable, assess whether your disaster recovery plan meets your needs. If not, make appropriate changes. If you think your business could have benefited from such a plan, there is no time like the present to develop one.

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Photo of Joseph J. Lazzarotti Joseph J. Lazzarotti

Joseph J. Lazzarotti is a Principal in the Morristown, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He founded and currently leads the firm’s Privacy, e-Communication and Data Security Practice, edits the firm’s Privacy Blog, and is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP) with the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Trained as an employee benefits lawyer, focused on compliance, Mr. Lazzarotti also is a member of the firm’s Employee Benefits Practice Group.

In short, his practice focuses on the matrix of laws governing the privacy, security, and management of data, as well as the impact and regulation of social media. He also counsels companies on compliance, fiduciary, taxation, and administrative matters with respect to employee benefit plans.

Privacy and cybersecurity experience – Mr. Lazzarotti counsels multinational, national and regional companies in all industries on the broad array of laws, regulations, best practices, and preventive safeguards. The following are examples of areas of focus in his practice:

  • Advising health care providers, business associates, and group health plan sponsors concerning HIPAA/HITECH compliance, including risk assessments, policies and procedures, incident response plan development, vendor assessment and management programs, and training.
  • Coached hundreds of companies through the investigation, remediation, notification, and overall response to data breaches of all kinds – PHI, PII, payment card, etc.
  • Helping organizations address questions about the application, implementation, and overall compliance with European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and, in particular, its implications in the U.S., together with preparing for the California Consumer Privacy Act.
  • Working with organizations to develop and implement video, audio, and data-driven monitoring and surveillance programs. For instance, in the transportation and related industries, Joe has worked with numerous clients on fleet management programs involving the use of telematics, dash-cams, event data recorders (EDR), and related technologies. He also has advised many clients in the use of biometrics including with regard to consent, data security, and retention issues under BIPA and other laws.
  • Assisting clients with growing state data security mandates to safeguard personal information, including steering clients through detailed risk assessments and converting those assessments into practical “best practice” risk management solutions, including written information security programs (WISPs). Related work includes compliance advice concerning FTC Act, Regulation S-P, GLBA, and New York Reg. 500.
  • Advising clients about best practices for electronic communications, including in social media, as well as when communicating under a “bring your own device” (BYOD) or “company owned personally enabled device” (COPE) environment.
  • Conducting various levels of privacy and data security training for executives and employees
  • Supports organizations through mergers, acquisitions, and reorganizations with regard to the handling of employee and customer data, and the safeguarding of that data during the transaction.
  • Representing organizations in matters involving inquiries into privacy and data security compliance before federal and state agencies including the HHS Office of Civil Rights, Federal Trade Commission, and various state Attorneys General.

Benefits counseling experience – Mr. Lazzarotti’s work in the benefits counseling area covers many areas of employee benefits law. Below are some examples of that work:

  • As part of the Firm’s Health Care Reform Team, he advises employers and plan sponsors regarding the establishment, administration and operation of fully insured and self-funded health and welfare plans to comply with ERISA, IRC, ACA/PPACA, HIPAA, COBRA, ADA, GINA, and other related laws.
  • Guiding clients through the selection of plan service providers, along with negotiating service agreements with vendors to address plan compliance and operations, while leveraging data security experience to ensure plan data is safeguarded.
  • Counsels plan sponsors on day-to-day compliance and administrative issues affecting plans.
  • Assists in the design and drafting of benefit plan documents, including severance and fringe benefit plans.
  • Advises plan sponsors concerning employee benefit plan operation, administration and correcting errors in operation.

Mr. Lazzarotti speaks and writes regularly on current employee benefits and data privacy and cybersecurity topics and his work has been published in leading business and legal journals and media outlets, such as The Washington Post, Inside Counsel, Bloomberg, The National Law Journal, Financial Times, Business Insurance, HR Magazine and NPR, as well as the ABA Journal, The American Lawyer, Law360, Bender’s Labor and Employment Bulletin, the Australian Privacy Law Bulletin and the Privacy, and Data Security Law Journal.

Mr. Lazzarotti served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Laura Denvir Stith on the Missouri Court of Appeals.