An "unorthodox approach"
- Workplace Recovery
- Technology Recovery
Markel relies upon one of Sungard Availability Services’ highly resilient Technology Centres to house the systems it would need in the event of a disaster striking its production environment. In the event that its offices were also affected it would relocate to one of SungardAS’s many London-based Workplace Recovery suites to help ensure business could continue uninterrupted.
IT Director Steve Fountain sums up the firm’s approach, “What we do for clients is manage their risk. Managing our own risk is simply an extension of this. Taking steps to remain active in the marketplace is something that we’ve been doing since 1982 with our first disaster recovery (DR) contracts – long before DR and BC became mainstream practice.”
Markel International successfully combines grass roots involvement with top level support. Such is the interest in protecting its business and IT operations, BC has commanded Board level attention from the outset. Over the years IT-centric DR for key mainframe and mid-range systems has evolved into people-centric BCM.
Unusually in these days of bureaucracy and red tape, Markel International is not prescriptive when it comes to BCM procedures.
“As soon as you have a dedicated department BC becomes ‘someone else’s job’ and people see it as divorced from their day-to-day activities,” explains Business Continuity Manager Nigel Poll. “We want the process to be empowering, not imposing.”
To this end, the BCP manager provides templates for documentation but each department maintains its own BCP manual, as do regional and international offices, thus ensuring a broadly standardised approach that is only bespoke where needed. Staff keep a copy of brief guidelines with them at all times and almost all employees have secure remote access to company systems and data through an internet-based Virtual Private Network (VPN).
Markel International’s 20 business divisions each nominate a primary and secondary BC Planning Officer, creating a 40-strong virtual BC team. Steve Fountain and Nigel Poll co-ordinate activities and the testing programme.
This simple, flexible approach extends to the composition of Markel International’s Emergency Management Team. Roles are listed but not allocated to named individuals in advance. “Everyone takes collective responsibility, which flies in the face of conventional wisdom,” notes Nigel Poll. “But because we’ve tested our response so thoroughly it’s become second nature.”
Sungard AS hosts redundant recovery hardware for Markel International to use in the event a disaster affects its production systems. This is dynamically updated and can accommodate all Markel International’s systems, services and data. Should disaster strike its premises, key staff would relocate to one of Sungard AS’s fully equipped workplace recovery centres, which provide all the technology and telephony the company needs to keep running.
Everyone takes collective responsibility, which flies in the face of conventional wisdom. But because we’ve tested our response so thoroughly it’s become second nature.
Business Continuity Manager, Markel International