An effective business disaster recovery plan is like building or travel insurance - you don't realise how important it is until adversity strikes.
Unexpected events that disrupt normal business activity can have a major impact on operations, staff and customers. Having in place a comprehensive plan to deal with such events is a vital part of effective management.
When it comes to their IT systems, many large companies tackle disaster recovery (DR) by establishing an offsite facility that can support business systems should a catastrophe strike. Critical applications and data is replicated in this facility and kept in a state of readiness at all times.
Smaller companies, however, often find they cannot readily afford such an approach. The overheads associated with purchasing and maintaining duplicate hardware and applications that may never be used make it a very expensive option. Add the extra IT management requirements and this approach to DR moves even further out of reach.
However, simply not having a DR plan in place is clearly not an option. Therefore, every organisation needs to compare the protection it needs with the alternatives available. When assessing the most appropriate DR plan, a range of questions need to be considered, including:
What are the potential risks that your organisation faces? These could range from natural disasters and criminal attacks to the failure of public utilities.
What plans are already in place? Assess the DR elements that might already exist and how well they address the identified risks.
How prepared are company staff? Proper training of the people who will implement a DR plan is vital to its success in supporting operations.
How would a DR response actually work? What are the key steps that would be followed to get the business up and running again after a disaster, and how long would this process take?
Can you practice your plan? Even the best DR plan is of only limited use unless it has been trialled and tested. Has this been done recently?
For increasing numbers of mid-sized organisations, DR requirements are being addressed through the adoption of a cloud-based managed service. Using this approach, an organisation can achieve the security and benefits of a private DR facility at a fraction of the cost.
The key benefits of a cloud-based, managed DR service include:
Reduced costs: The requirement to invest in hardware and software is removed with services supplied on a subscription basis.
Faster recovery: All the systems required to support the business can be up and running in less than an hour. SLA agreements allow the organisation to be confident disruptions will be kept to a minimum.
Regular testing: Scenarios can be created that test the DR plan and how effectively it can be implemented. This provides assurance that, should a disaster strike, operations will be back to normal as quickly as possible.
Improved flexibility: Regular monitoring of the DR plan ensures it continues to meet the requirements of the business over time. Should operations change, the DR plan can change alongside them.
Some companies offer a range of managed services that can help an organisation establish an effective DR solution. Look for a organisation which has a portfolio including private cloud, hybrid cloud and data replication services using hosted virtual machines - all key components of a robust and effective DR plan.
A careful review of the elements already in place, together with clear understanding of potential threats, means a comprehensive solution can be devised to ensure an organisation is well placed to avoid the potentially damaging impact of a poorly executed DR plan.
If you choose a company with a managed services offering, the solution can be constantly reviewed to ensure it closely matches the ever-changing requirements of the business. Rather than simply being a set-and-forget project, DR becomes an evolving component of an organisation's overall IT infrastructure.
However, don’t forget your team. Staff training should also be undertaken on a regular basis, ensuring they are ready and able to execute the plan should unexpected circumstances arise.
Bennett Oprysa is the CEO of BitCloud