A flood, fire, power cut, hardware failure or cyber attack can bring an organisation’s operations to a halt in the blink of an eye.
Moreover, unplanned downtime can prove to be financially disastrous for any business, regardless of size. According to the IT Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council, a single hour of IT downtime costs up to £6,400 for small businesses, £56,000 for mid-size and up to £530,000 for large enterprises. Elsewhere, 91% of major UK enterprises who experienced a DDoS attack in 2018 experienced network downtime as a direct result, with the average attack costing the business in excess of £140,000.
But do you know what you would you do if your organisation suffered from a disaster tomorrow? And what your disaster recovery plan is?
Many organisations’ disaster recovery strategy is based on backing up data. Yet having data available isn’t much use if the applications that need the data to carry out critical business functions aren’t available. Therefore, application availability during an unexpected event is critical, and it starts with building an architecture that is both resistant to outages and can be recovered, regardless of the challenge.
For example, having applications servers on-premise at a site that falls victim to an environmental disaster such as fire or flood will almost certainly mean a loss of power and involve evacuation. The ability to rapidly spin up applications in the cloud and give them access to backup up data is one option as an effective strategy.
Organisations must also consider their employees and create methods for remote working that allow them to work from home or temporary offices. Employees that are forced to relocate need to ensure that they can both make and receive work calls. For a cloud-based telephony service, this means reconfiguring calls to mobiles and home landlines. For an on-premise PBX, this will require contacting the telecoms provider to redirect calls to a temporary hosted or cloud PBX service – but either way, it is vital that company-wide contact lists for customers, suppliers and other key business partners are held in a service that can be accessed via simple internet connectivity. The key to all these activities is to have a plan in place before the worst happens!
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Although it might sound like it is only applicable to larger organisations, disaster recovery planning and business continuity is relevant to all businesses of any shape and size. The term ‘disaster’ doesn’t just refer to events of an epic scale – common events like faulty telecoms equipment or minor IT infrastructure failures might knock out internet access or data availability, crippling a business without a plan in place.
For every organisation, disaster recovery planning should be a three-part process. The first is to map your infrastructure and processes and assess which elements are business critical. Then you need to work out how much time you can manage without access to these systems before it starts to impact the business. Next, you need to create a wish list of what you would like to happen in the event of a range of disruptions such as loss of power for a few hours, through to the evacuation of a site to more extreme issues such as destruction of a site through fire or flooding.
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In many cases, minimising the amount of time it takes to get back to work is vital, and specialist disaster recovery services providers can help offer a set of ready-made services that can be activated quickly to get back up and running with minimal disruption.
A major part of many of these plans is the use of off-site resources, including cloud-based services that are geographically separated. Often, these services will continually back up files at short notice based on a pre-agreed plan.
However, no matter how well conceived a disaster recovery plan might be on paper, it needs to be tested. In the same way that regular fire drills help with preparedness, a disaster recovery test should be run annually as a minimum. If there’s been a major IT upgrade or change in processes, it is also wise to run a test to find out if the plans need to change based on the updated IT systems. A managed services partner with the expertise to build a DR solution for your unique needs can help in this process. As the adage goes, it is better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it!
Written by Martin Audcent, CFO, SysGroup