Leading HR software provider Cascade has introduced a creative new approach to planning for the unknown, following the first in a series of disaster recovery training events.

To ensure that their level of customer service remains uncompromised, the company has launched a series of monthly training sessions to test employees to their limits in the event of the unexpected.

With the aim of recreating a different disaster scenario every month the first session focused upon Cascade’s hosted service. Twenty-five per cent of its clients currently opt for the security of housing and maintaining their servers in Cascade’s dedicated external facility, rather than their own premises. This equates to thousands of people that could be without a HR and payroll system, if disaster was to strike at that facility or if the team wasn’t rigorously trained and prepared.

Dan Edwards, Cascade’s software development director explains: “Placing staff under these pressures may sound like an extreme approach to training but so much of our business revolves around customer service. We therefore need to ensure that if a disaster did occur we would be able to deal with it, with little or no disruption to clients.”

To recreate the random nature of a disaster, team members and servers were drawn from a hat so that, just like in a real situation, there was no time to prepare specific equipment and no opportunity to accommodate for staff being ill or on annual leave. Services to the chosen servers were then turned off so that staff could begin the recovery operation using a ‘dummy’ client.

The team successfully resolved the situation within their 2.5 hour target, meaning that if the disaster had been real, client work agreements would have been fulfilled with time to spare.

“Many companies prepare disaster recovery instruction manuals but few test these paper-based strategies to check that they work in reality,” continues Edwards. “This exercise has not only proven that we are resilient should the worst happen, but more importantly we have also shown that should an external disaster occur in our hosted data centre, it would not result in a catastrophe for our hosted service clients,” says Edwards.

Cascade will continue to recreate different disaster scenarios across all areas of the business each month, with forthcoming sessions focusing upon how the business would cope without a customer service desk, or without power. Knowledge gained from each training exercise will then be passed on to clients so that they too could cope better in the event of a disaster.