28 Oct 2011

If disaster struck, how would your business fare?

With the multitude of pressures on today’s SMEs, planning for the unexpected is not always a priority.

But as the Queensland floods reminded us, disasters do happen. And whether natural or man-made, they can seriously affect your business.

Some of the more common disasters are those that involve the loss of buildings or facilities, the loss of critical IT infrastructure and applications, and the loss of critical staff.

The key to each is to limit the long-term damage by recovering as quickly as possible, because it’s this that retains customers who might otherwise look elsewhere.

Here’s what to think about when considering your back-up and disaster recovery regime:

Using the cloud

As it has in so many areas, the cloud has changed the game when it comes to disaster recovery. The two are a natural fit.

The cloud offers cost-efficient, automated and simple disaster protection. It reduces the costs of disaster recovery solutions by offering a pay-per-use pricing model while eliminating the need for large upfront capital investment.

It also allows you to leverage your provider’s infrastructure so that you don’t have to build your own identical servers and storage at another site.

Virtualisation

For disaster recovery to work effectively, you first need to virtualise your servers – something that allows them to be quickly and efficiently moved between locations.

Not only does this allow for fast replication, but it’s also what ensures rapid recovery should a disaster occur.

In the past, testing disaster recovery solutions has been notoriously difficult, with businesses often forced to simply hope for the best. But through the cloud, your business should now be able set a Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and prove that it can meet it. That’s because the cloud will allow you to test your recovery plan at any time, without disrupting your business.

Speed

One of the most important part of any disaster recovery solution is of course how fast your business can recover.

Using the cloud, a typical recovery time is one to 24 hours. Times will be influenced by things like the network bandwidth between you and your provider, the size of your virtual machines and the rate of data change.

Make sure that you understand how long your recovery solution will take in the event that a disaster occurs.

Have a continuity plan

Ensure that your “time to recover” fits within your overall business continuity plan.

Business continuity is about getting the whole of your business back online after a disaster event. A good framework will include:

Planning – including a business impact analysis, a risk analysis, and an IT infrastructure review.
Strategies – including a continuity management strategy and recovery strategy.
Operational plans – including technical recovery plans and plans for each business unit.

Summing up

For most SMEs, the key is to focus on the rapid restoration of business operations. It’s about retaining your customer base – and the effort you’ve put into building your business – by being prepared when disaster strikes.

Dave Stevens is MD, Brennan IT

(This blog post was first published on the SmartCompany website on October 27 2011)

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