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How important are disaster recovery professional certifications to an enterprise data center?

Richard Jones, VP and Service Director for Data Center Strategies, Burton Group

The value of disaster recovery data center certifications may be poorly understood due to a bad experience with a certified individual. But with the right soft skills, disaster recovery certification can help a data center manager lead an enterprise to success for lower cost. Two disaster recovery certifications from DRII and BCI are outlined here.

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value of professional certifications has proven to be a source of debate in my two-and-a-half decades of engineering and product management experience. I'm sure many of you have had similar experiences: The employee with ten acronyms on their resume who turned out to be worthless to the organization, or the employee with professional certification who lifted your organization to the next level of operational maturity. It depends more on the person than the professional certification.

A few weeks back, I was discussing the value of professional certifications with a co-worker. His experience and resultant opinion is that professional certifications are meaningless (he works in the IT security industry). Recently, I was talking to a CIO of a mid-sized organization about business continuity planning, and his experience with a Disaster Recovery Institute International (DRII) certified consultant was extremely positive, and he felt the certification was of great value. So what's the deal? Why do opinions on professional certifications vary from extreme to extreme?

My experience is that the value of a certification has more to do with the individual rather than the certification. It boils down to the leadership, personality and overall work ethic of the certified person. In other words, a professional certification of an individual who lacks effective leadership and work ethic skills is entirely meaningless. Conversely, a natural leader with excellent interpersonal skills and work ethic is greatly augmented by a professional certification. In a way, the old saying "don't judge a book by its cover" applies to professional certifications: "Don't judge an individual by their professional certifications."

So, let's talk about those individuals who posses effective leadership and interpersonal skills with a great work ethic. Do disaster recovery professional certifications really matter? Let's review what certifications are available:

Disaster Recovery Institute International (DRII) professional certifications

  • Associate Business Continuity Professional (ABCP)
  • Certified Functional Continuity Professional (CFCP)
  • Certified Business Continuity Professional (CBCP)
  • Master Business Continuity Professional (MBCP)
  • Certified Business Continuity Vendor (CBCV)

Business Continuity Institute (BCI) certification and membership levels

  • Associate Member of the BCI (AMBCI)
  • Specialist Member of the BCI (SBCI)
  • Member of the BCI (MBCI)
  • Fellowship of the BCI (FBCI)

On May 12th, 2008, BCI announced a modification to their program, offering a baseline certification called the CBCI. Baseline certification is based on passing the modified BCI exam that corresponds more closely with DRII's process (ten skills areas have been condensed down to six skills areas).

These two disaster recovery and business continuity certification/training organizations approach the matter of certification differently. DRII's focus is on a professional certification based on passing an exam and number of years of experience in the profession. BCI's focus is similar, but level is granted through years of BCI membership.

How certifications aid an enterprise in creating and maintaining effective business continuity and disaster recovery plans for the least cost is the real measure of their value.
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You may ask "What's the value in these certifications?" It may appear to you that anyone who has obtained a certification is now just a member of an elitist club. But, how these certifications aid an enterprise in creating and maintaining effective business continuity and disaster recovery plans for the least cost is the real measure of their value.

Of the many people charged with business continuity and disaster recovery responsibilities that I have spoken with over the years, I've been surprised to find only a handful that had professional certifications. However, I have found that certified individuals were armed with the knowledge and tools to organize and move their organization in the right direction (assuming they met the soft-skill qualifications I noted at the beginning of this column and were given the authority to affect change in the organization -- but that's another story).

Training and professional certifications offer a common methodology, best practices, and vocabulary that the enterprise embarking on disaster recovery and business continuity planning can rely. The planning leader, preferably the equivalent of a chief operations officer, should be certified so that they can provide a common foundation of knowledge and vocabulary. If they are not certified, the organization can still move forward if they assign a certified individual to work alongside the one in charge. If the organization lacks anyone with professional certifications, I've found that professional disaster recovery and business continuity consultants can be very useful in guiding the organization. The CIO I mentioned earlier had a great experience with an outside consultant who mentored and followed up with the organization -- effectively training them and leaving behind the tools necessary to continue the ongoing plan maintenance process on their own.

The bottom line is that professional certifications can prove useful when properly leveraged for disaster recovery and business continuity planning.
 

This was first published in June 2008

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