Is Your Fulfillment Company Part of the Problem or the Solution?
Ensuring Continuity During Natural Disasters and Other Business Interruptions
When you think about all the things that can disrupt your business operations, you probably think of hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, fires, power outages and computer malfunctions. Companies should be concerned about such events, given the enormous losses left in the wake of disasters like Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and – more recently – 1,000-year floods in Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi; several blizzards along the Atlantic coast; and the annual outbreak of wildfires in California and Arizona.
Your bottom line can also be affected if your vendors experience a business interruption or financial instability. After all, your company doesn’t operate in a vacuum. You depend on other companies for raw materials and/or services to produce, promote and deliver what you sell. And the reality is, unless you have a truly one-of-a-kind product or service, a competitive version is just a phone call or mouse click away. If you can’t meet your customers’ needs due to your own or a vendor’s downtime, you may lose short-term sales and revenues, as well as market share, and risk being out of compliance with your legal and regulatory obligations, if the interruption is long enough.
For this reason, your company’s business continuation planning should include a hard look at interdependencies with your suppliers. For marketers, one of your most critical relationships is with your fulfillment partner.
Your fulfillment partner plays a key role in presenting your company’s “face” to customers and prospects. At the very least, you count on them to get your marketing materials to the right people in a timely fashion and in good shape. If you work with a fulfillment company that offers more extensive marketing services, you may also rely on them for some creative design and production of your materials, as well as business intelligence obtained through the data they capture and retain for you. Ask yourself:
- If there’s a fire, flood or hurricane, can your fulfillment company protect your collateral and other assets in their facilities?
- If there’s a widespread power outage, will they be able to respond to leads in a timely fashion?
- Is your valuable customer information safe from hackers, viruses, equipment failure and simple human error?
Critical Areas to Consider
To ensure the continuity of your supply chain, the Institute for Business and Home Safety 1 recommends that you use suppliers who are proactive about business continuity and recovery. Don’t be afraid to ask them about their plans and review them yourself to ensure that they satisfy your company’s contingency needs.
Here are some questions you should ask when evaluating how well your fulfillment partner does in these areas:
- Does your partner have more than one facility, so that they can transfer your data and business seamlessly to another location if they one you currently use is damaged or destroyed?
- Have they proactively discussed options for keeping your marketing communications flowing in the event of a business interruption at the facility you currently use?
- Can they quickly transfer ordering, production and shipping to another facility if the one you use is destroyed by a fire or natural disaster?
- Can they produce your collateral using digital print on demand if your physical inventory is damaged or destroyed?
- Can they deliver your communications electronically if physical shipping is disrupted?
- Do their facilities have a centrally monitored alarm system?
- Is access controlled through use of identification badges, magnetic security cards and/or access codes?
- Is your fulfillment house the sole occupant of its building, or do other businesses (whose security and other practices may not be as stringent) share physical space?
- Do they have a centrally monitored fire alarm?
- Do they have fire suppression systems, such as ceiling and in-rack sprinkler systems?
- Do they offer a vault area with superior (4-hour) fire rating, as well as off-site vault storage?
- Are their servers in a “hardened” (fire- and disaster proof) location?
- Do they have backup servers in another location, ready to take over if the primary servers go down?
- Is there a backup power system (generators or batteries), so that operations can continue in the event of a power outage?
- Are transactions recorded?
- Do they redundantly back up all information – for example, to both a server and digital tape – daily?
- Do they store those backups offsite in a secure location?
- Can they provide you with copies of those daily backups?
- Even some of the largest corporations are struggling in our current difficult environment. Is your fulfillment partner financially stable and able to serve you over the long haul?
Iron Mountain's Approach
Iron Mountain takes business continuity and recovery seriously. All of our eight strategically located fulfillment facilities have identical systems, which are interconnected by our national VPN WAN. Server setup, workstation setup and databases can be transferred electronically, and staff functions and work processes are identical, so normal operations can resume as soon as new or recovered material is available.
All of our web-based portal functions and transactions are backed up in quadruple. At the end of each business day, this information is backed up onto a server and onto a digital tape (DAT).
Digital assets are stored using Iron Mountain’s Offsite Data Protection services. We also offer secured storage for clients’ physical assets at our facilities. Each of our facilities has extensive ceiling and in-rack sprinkler systems and centrally monitored alarm systems with heat sensors, motion sensors, smoke detection and confidential, personalized deactivation codes. Our employees are required to wear ID badges.
Iron Mountain is an S&P 500 company and is currently ranked 644 in the Fortune 1000. This financial strength means we will continue to be there for our clients, which include 95% of the Fortune 1000.
About Iron Mountain Fulfillment Services
Iron Mountain Fulfillment Services, Inc. offers an advanced combination of fulfillment and digital print solutions for targeted and personalized communications. With over 40 years of experience in the fulfillment business, we have the tools and know-how to help you meet your business goals, increase your response rates, expand your market opportunities, reduce your overall spend and ensure compliance with external regulations and internal brand standards. To learn more about Iron Mountain Fulfillment Services please contact us at (877) 521-4637 or visit our website at www.ironmountain.com/fulfillment.
1Open for Business, Institute for Business and Home Safety, 2006. http://www.ibhs.org/ business_protection