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With Clients in Mind, List Firms Upgrade Disaster Preparedness, Recovery

While the terrorist attacks of 9/11 served as a wake-up call regarding national security, two list companies developed business contingency plans in the time since- and they recently put those plans to the test.

“September 11 was definitely a wake-up,” said Adrea Rubin, CEO of Adrea Rubin Marketing, New York. “Because we're a boutique firm that really needs to protect our clients and their interests, we had already thought about duplicating all our computer systems and enabling our people to remotely connect. After 9/11, it became more incumbent upon us to do it.”

ARM's offices are at 441 Lexington Ave. in Manhattan, far enough from the World Trade Center that they did not need to evacuate the building but close enough to realize how devastating it would be if they needed to vacate the premises for any reason.

“There were companies who were down near the World Trade Center on 9/11 that had serious issues,” Rubin said.

Former Uni-Mail president Michael Bryant and his account team joined ARM in October 2001. Bryant closed Uni-Mail on Sept. 21, 2001, following uncertainty after its offices at 42 Broadway in lower Manhattan were rendered uninhabitable.

ARM had some procedures in place before 9/11. Computer backup tapes were taken off-site nightly in case of a fire or any event that would prevent employees from entering the building. After 9/11, Operation Business Recovery was set in motion to ensure seamless remote access to the ARM system, according to Rubin.

The second of two successful tests of the plan was completed March 11. Employees were able to connect from their homes and access the information needed to serve the company's clients.

“If something were to happen, we would be able to not miss a beat,” Rubin said.

ARM also has done several things from a data security standpoint to prevent disaster and protect clients. In what Rubin characterized as “only a sampling” of other security measures taken, she listed sensitive data encryption, document shredding, anti-virus software and firewalls.

“I think with what's going on in the industry today in regard to data security, it's really important to do that, especially in the current regulatory climate,” she said.

New doors were installed requiring swipe cards for entry, she said. Employees sign confidentiality agreements and must change their computer passwords every 90 days.

ClientLogic Specialists Marketing Services, Weehawken, NJ – just across the Hudson River – also had a front row seat for the destruction of the World Trade Center.

“Our location allowed us to witness what happened on 9/11, giving us a better understanding of what a disaster could mean,” said Lon Mandel, marketing services officer at CSMS. “It didn't just mean if your building had a problem, but if those around you did, you could be locked out of your office for days, weeks or months. Although we had a disaster recovery plan prior to 9/11, that made us realize what we thought was disaster recovery wasn't going to cut it.”

It took nearly 2 1/2 years of tweaking to create an adequate plan, he said. Though CSMS also has employees who connect to its system from their homes, it has an alternative location where business can be conducted if its main offices are inaccessible. Its compilation division in Fair Lawn, NJ, can serve as a de facto substitute for its Weehawken headquarters.

A test of the firm's Business Continuance Plan was performed March 31. When the test was completed, all the systems were shut down and the office was evacuated. The company has a communication chain to instruct employees what to do next. About 20 employees reported to the Fair Lawn office, which is equipped with telephones, computers and complete backups of CSMS' systems.

During the drill, clients were informed that it was a test, though it was done as if the company lacked access to its main office and conducted business all day as such. ClientLogic even ran orders and shipped out list files from its list fulfillment division from the alternative location.

“The test went very well,” Mandel said. “We found some minor glitches that have been corrected, but from our perspective as a business, in the event of a disaster our clients and our associates are covered. The most important piece is that the clients have peace of mind knowing that you could operate in the event of a disaster.”

Mandel said stage two of the plan is to meet with some top list companies to discuss what CSMS has done. That is probably a month or so away, he added.

“We don't want to tell anyone how to run their business but to help them figure out what they would need in such a situation to make business run smoothly,” he said.

Kristen Bremner covers list news, insert media, privacy and fundraising for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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