2017 has already seen more high profile cyber-attacks than in recent memory, but the shocking rate of attacks is only overwhelmed by the number of companies who didn’t seem prepared to defend or recover. As businesses journey through this era of digital transformation, it is vital that a fully realised disaster recovery (DR) plan is part of that process.
While it may seem that large organisations are most vulnerable to an attack, they often have extensive resources to recover if the worst happens. Small businesses however, need to be considerably more proactive and it can be harder to recover from a revenue and brand management perspective should an attack happen. But no matter the size, every business should have the same priorities and a DR plan needs to be a critical aspect of the IT infrastructure moving forward.
The need for a DR plan has never been greater
In today’s business world, every organisation is reliant upon access to data and applications to ensure success. However, these valuable assets are also vulnerable. Downtime and disaster, caused by anything from cyber-attacks to inclement weather, can cause crippling damage to organisations and their customers.
A fully effective DR solution provides peace of mind to a business’s IT operations during an outage by ensuring the entire IT estate was regularly replicated and stored in a secondary location prior to the outage. This means that when disaster hits, a business’s mission-critical workload is accessible and functioning within a short period of time, usually within a one to four hour window.
A DR plan is not just about ensuring business functionality, but also about customer satisfaction and the impact they feel from any downtime. A simple restoration of the businesses most recent data snapshot will not be sufficient for staff to continue to operate and provide the best service to the customer. A complete restoration of the entire infrastructure needs to be guaranteed in order to enable a return to businesses as usual.
A good DR plan needs order and prioritisation
The first step in creating an effective DR plan is having a detailed understanding of the most vital data and applications that are needed to keep the business running. Every user will be desperate to have their systems attended to first, but this process must be looked at from a holistic perspective. Without this sense of order a company’s DR plan will always have weaknesses that will hinder its success in the wake of a disaster.
For a small business, most likely running its IT on a small budget, the process of evaluating the order in which applications and data is restored can be fiscally responsible – only immediately restoring the most important. Defining the business’s mission-critical data and applications will mean the most appropriate protection plan can be built around them.
Only practice makes DR perfect
In the technology landscape of today, it is simply not enough to just have a DR plan in place. The plan needs to be tested, fully and regularly, to ensure that each step plays out the way it is planned and everyone involved knows the role that they play. This process can be easily managed in-house or for a small business that possibly doesn’t have the resources to arranged and executed testing, a managed service provider can ensure there is no downtime or disruption to the business.
If something changes in the system, new applications added or an operating system updated for example, the DR plan needs to be updated to account for this. It is like pressing the save button on a Word document every 15 minutes – easy to forget, but devastating when the system shuts down taking everything with it.
Find a trusted partner
A full DR strategy can feel like a significant upfront cost and a daunting undertaking for a small business, especially if IT budgets are tight. But there are many partners that can offer a host of DR and business continuity advice, support and guidance to suit businesses of any size and budget.
Implementing a DR procedure in-house means the business takes on the software, hardware and associated licensing cost, the storage, the expertise and so on, which can quickly mount up to a massive expenditure. A partner, on the other hand, can be the IT team’s greatest advisor with experienced experts and a host of bespoke backup and DR managed solutions and services.
In a digital era where downtime can result from a myriad of sources, and as companies become more reliant on technology being available across devices and locations, businesses simply cannot afford not to have a DR plan. A simple plan gives peace of mind and businesses can rely on the channel to create services that fit their requirements and expectations whether they are a small independent company or a larger enterprise conglomerate.
Paul Mills is managing director of converged and partner solutions at Six Degrees Group