By Michael Bradley
Special to Delaware Business Times
The nonprofit working for the City of Philadelphia had waited — almost too long. Everybody puts things off, and when faced with something as daunting as concocting a disaster recovery plan for data, it’s natural that a firm might hold off until the guillotine blade is being raised. Philadelphia mandated the plan be in place before the end of July, and in late spring, procrastination morphed into panic.
Rick McCardell, vice president of business development for Newark-based Qnectus, an outside IT service provider, had everything under control for his client. He simply called Ralph Petti from Continuity Dynamics and explained the situation.
“[Continuity Dynamics] was able to put it together in one day,” McCardell said. “It only took that long for the company to have a plan that complied with the requirements of the City of Philadelphia.”
At a time when data is so important, it’s vital to have a plan capable of thwarting problems that can be caused by incidents of all kinds. For more than 25 years, Continuity Dynamics has provided consulting services to help businesses prepare for any number of potentially crippling episodes. Started in north New Jersey, Continuity Dynamics moved to Wilmington four years ago because Petti saw an opportunity to help myriad industries prepare for the worst.
“There is so much low-lying land in Delaware,” said Petti, the company’s founder. “There are nuclear power plants [nearby], a lot of major corporations and banks. We don’t say that these are terrorist targets, but we saw an opportunity to elevate the understanding of companies needs and help people address them.”
Although Continuity Dynamics does not back up data itself, it helps create IT contingencies for clients. It also crafts strategies to offset the effects of weather, power problems, fire, and yes, terrorist activity. Businesses are going to face problems, and the more they plan for them, the better they will be able to respond when trouble occurs.
Thanks to its substantial experience, Continuity Dynamics has the ability to work with a variety of businesses. For instance, because of its pandemic training work in the Philippines and Indonesia in 2013 that was sponsored by the International Medical Corps, the company has the ability to create plans for those concerned about a possible outbreak of the Zika Virus. Since Petti is also a risk- management professional in the real estate field and works with the Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Group, he brings a unique perspective to commercial and residential clients for Continuity Dynamics.
“Even FEMA tells people that they need to be prepared for disasters, because they will likely be spending their first 24 to 48 hours on their own,” Petti said. “People in buildings can’t rely on their landlords. They have to get down to the granular level in buildings, houses, businesses, apartment buildings and homes. We have plans to address them all.”
It’s part of a comprehensive approach to risk-management consulting that makes Petti’s firm unique and allows its customers to have the security necessary to continue business operations no matter what happens.
“We live in a different world today,” said John Panchery, a vice president at Continuity Dynamics who has a background in financial services. “I don’t think people are afraid to be educated about what might happen and how to prepare for it. People want to be informed.”
Panchery gives an example of what a firm could face in the event of an incident at its physical plant. Those in charge must be able to contact employees to let them know what has happened and what’s next. They have to have a contingency location for future operations. They need relationships that will allow for any repairs or reconstruction that need to take place. And they need a cloud-based home for data, so that important information can be accessed from anywhere. Providing that level of planning allows business owners to know they have set protocols for just about anything.
“What we do depends on the business we are doing a plan for,” Panchery said. “I come from the financial industry, and it’s not should I have a plan. You have to have a plan. It needs to be efficient and tested regularly, and it has to work with first, second and third level vendors and supply chain participants that you need.”
Continuity Dynamics creates programs for its clients in a variety of ways. One is through a computer-training experience that combines game-based learning, online courses and a variety of simulations that allow management and employees to be prepared in the event of any unexpected circumstance. Over the past few years, the company has expanded its services to a variety of business categories, including long-term care facilities, schools, insurance agencies and brokers and even the American Red Cross. Although each industry and organization has its own specific characteristics and challenges, the overriding goals are the same: minimizing interruption to operation, protecting assets and making sure customers and vendors are addressed.
And since new threats of all kinds seem to be emerging on a regular basis, Continuity Dynamics is tailoring its programs to whatever comes next. Take the Zika virus. Although the world’s focus is primarily on Central and South America right now, thanks in large part to concerns about athletes and fans at the coming Summer Olympics, the rest of the Western Hemisphere needs to be prepared in case the disease migrates north.
“We are able to look at early warning signs,” Petti said. “Three years ago, in the Philippines and Indonesia, we saw children missing school and less traffic on the highways. You can see indicators of trouble emerging. They may be small, but they are real.”
In today’s world, businesses of all kinds, not to mention individuals, can no longer ignore even the tiniest possibility of trouble. Preparing for the worst will help produce the best results — at a variety of levels.
“We provide standards-based consulting that is done in template form with a variety of products to choose from,” Petti said. “We have some that cost $50 a month, all the way up to major undertakings. All businesses have different needs, and though we follow the same methodology, we customize it for our clients.”