Monthly Archives: September 2014

No business should roll the dice with its data

When it comes to the protection of mission-critical applications and information, most business leaders put far too much trust in their legacy systems to do the job. While traditional, in-house assets can do well to support daily business operations and end user capabilities, they aren’t as reliable when a worst-case scenario puts key data at risk. Whether a firm encounters a natural disaster that affects its data centers, human error throws the infrastructure out of sync or networks experience inexplicable downtime, a company needs to be prepared to navigate any circumstances.

Despite the widespread acknowledgement of disaster recovery’s importance in the enterprise arena, decision-makers still fail to recognize the crucial role of dedicated backup and restoration systems in their IT blueprints. There’s no denying the far-reaching effects of a network outage – online news provider Mobile Enterprise recently pointed to a study from the Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council revealing 78 percent of respondents experienced downtime in some capacity and 28 percent claimed to have lost data center functionality for up to weeks on end.

With these figures in mind, along with the increasingly complex nature of enterprises’ digital foundations, there has never been a more urgent time for executive leaders to reconsider their recovery and continuity outlooks. For firms that aren’t sure where to start in their missions to mitigate this type of risk, here are a few tips that should serve as a step in the right direction.

Set new standards of recovery
While many organizations have backup systems in place, these don’t tend to receive top priority when upgrades are on the agenda. Just because these support assets aren’t on the front lines, however, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t remain on the cutting edge. Revamped recovery tools can not only ensure faster restoration of apps and data, but also help IT leaders determine crucial metrics. According to Mobile Enterprise, a disaster recovery plan is incomplete unless Recovery Time Objectives and Recovery Point Objectives are clearly defined for every key application.

“Without these important metrics, you cannot set proper expectations and assumptions from management, employees, and customers about your DR capabilities and how to improve them,” stated the DRPC report, as quoted by the news source.

Don’t hesitate to leverage cloud
Long gone are the days when off-premise resources were considered unreliable by IT circles – the cloud now plays a central role across industries in organizations’ primary and backup compute and storage layouts. Not only does this approach offer high availability of applications throughout the enterprise, but it also makes system restoration a breeze. Many service providers even offer one-click solutions engineered to recover a wide array of tech assets at the push of a button. When disaster recovery is given this level of simplicity, a company can rest assured it can get back up to speed.

Unfortunately, it is rare to find a firm that has a fully documented and tested plan at the ready. Mobile Enterprise pointed out that 60 percent of surveyed organizations lack a complete strategy, and of those that do, 23 percent fail to test their services on a frequent basis. Partnering with an expert provider who regularly tests and updates systems is essential to staying ahead of the curve with regard to the latest infrastructure changes, as well as the emergency situations that could affect these assets.

Think about mobile continuity
Building a comprehensive recovery platform requires decision-makers to look at every corner of their digital footprint – including remote access-enabled mobile devices. With the addition of enterprise mobility strategies across sectors, IT leaders have struggled to bring their recovery plans into this new realm, heightening a range of risks and reducing effectiveness of continuity plans. As Mobile Enterprise pointed out, policies such as BYOD need to be supported in full by a company’s recovery resources, or the negative effects of an outage can be even more devastating.

Between recovery objectives, cloud backup and mobile continuity requirements, IT executives have plenty to do when it comes to managing disaster risk in the data center and beyond. If each of these components is addressed with internal support and the guidance of a service provider, however, a firm can be prepared for any obstacles that get in its way.

Cyber security, business continuity go hand in hand

Businesses, government agencies and individuals across the world have been suffering more frequent and severe cyberattacks than any previous generation, and for many decision-makers, cybersecurity remains a weak link in their strategies overall. While organizations are quick to leverage secure file transfer and firewall solutions to protect their infrastructures, there is an alarming lack of focus on the business continuity side of the coin when data protection is brought up in the boardroom.

Leaders in every area of the enterprise environment must recognize the risks they face and bring their recovery and continuity strategies in step with the rest of their security outlooks. Without a well-rounded approach to IT backup and recovery, vulnerabilities may come back to haunt an organization down the line, resulting in data breaches, leaked information and the eventual loss of client confidence. Cyber security should be an integral part of a company’s continuity blueprint, not a burden to its data protection goals.

Think two steps ahead
When it comes to ensuring a complete continuity profile, preparation is paramount. This means examining every aspect of an organization’s IT infrastructure and putting the necessary backup and recovery measures in place. From email exchange applications to cloud-based collaboration channels, a business can’t fall short of any recovery objectives, especially with cybercriminal organizations targeting more specific components of corporate networks. Even one weak link can lead to a large-scale breach of massive proportions. This is a risk that no organization should have to take.

According to a recent article from Forbes, waiting until the occurrence of a cyberattack is far too late for companies to create an effective continuity strategy, particularly organizations with a wide range of IT assets to account for. The source spoke with corporate risk management expert Brian White, a principal at premiere global advisory firm The Chertoff Group, who explained that by the time an intrusion attempt is launched, an organization is already a step behind the curve. Decision-makers must recognize the importance of preparation if they want to execute an effective response.

“With this in mind, it is essential for business executives to conduct a strategic review and analysis of their most vital assets and make investments to create a more resilient enterprise,” White told the source. “It’s not about what they should do at the time of an attack, but rather how they implement a response and recovery plan. The biggest risk a company faces in today’s uncertainty of cyberattacks is not being prepared.”

Navigating crisis mode
Even if a company has a comprehensive recovery strategy in place, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the chaotic atmosphere brought on by a cyberattack. This is the time in which decision-makers must keep a cool head and rely on their continuity blueprints to direct them to calm waters. Forbes pointed out that by rigorously and regularly testing backup and recovery systems, organization leaders will be much more confident in an emergency situation, knowing that their IT assets will be able to fully support any restoration or continuity needs.

“Practice is everything,” White told Forbes. “In today’s world of cyber uncertainty 100 percent protection against a cyberattack is not possible, even with the strongest of security measures in place. Therefore, creating an effective risk management and response plan is a key mitigation activity.”

What’s the best way to perform a comprehensive systems test? Teaming up with a dedicated service provider can be a good place to start. By allowing expert recovery engineers to establish recovery point objectives and orchestrate a trial scenario, a company and its stakeholders can rest assured demands will be met in a worst-case situation.

5 elements of continuity: Where is the missing link in your strategy?

Business continuity isn’t optional in a fast-paced economy, and you can’t let a single component of your recovery plan fall by the wayside if you want to stay in the running. There are countless ways that natural disasters, human error and cybercriminal activity can negatively affect your operations, so a comprehensive DR strategy is essential to ensure these roadblocks don’t bring your business to a halt. Don’t wait until the last minute to piece together a plan when you know that proactive measures are necessary for success.

Piecing it together
While you may know that DR is a critical aspect of corporate management in today’s business landscape, the details of such a strategy might not be as clear. With diverse operational demands evolving every day, it can be hard to keep up with the latest developments in the boardroom, let alone the recovery requirements that accompany these shifts. Here are the five core elements that need to be part of your continuity outlook, regardless of the industry or market you occupy.

1. Total team coordination: What good is a continuity strategy if not every employee is fully informed of the game plan? Utilize tools such as emergency alerts via mobile, as well as other communication channels such as email and voice to keep everybody in the loop. Even a shred of uncertainty in the workforce can rip a recovery blueprint apart at the seams. In a crisis situation, hesitation is your worst enemy. Develop a foolproof method to stay in contact with your entire employee base to ensure smooth and reliable strategy execution in a worst-case scenario.

2. A place to stay productive: Disaster situations often prevent you and your staff members from safely reaching the office. In many cases, facilities themselves can be put out of commission for weeks before repairs are made. You can’t let such obstacles affect the trajectory of your business, but make sure you have a space designated for continued productivity during power outages, floods and everything in between. Telecommuting can serve as a Band-Aid solution for a time, but eventually, you’ll need to bring everyone together in one workplace to achieve optimal results.

3. Tools of the trade: Backup workstations can be a powerful ally in a disaster recovery blueprint, but additional equipment is often necessary to bring a business back to full operating capacity. That means procuring extra printers, monitors, power generators and other key items that keep your company humming along. If you have a recovery service provider on your side, you can also orchestrate delivery of these units to backup workplace locations, boosting productivity from literally any emergency office environment you want.

4. Complete IT restoration: If you’re neglecting your IT backup and recovery needs, you may as well kiss those terabytes of data goodbye when a disaster rolls around. Data centers are fragile, and without a comprehensive tech recovery strategy, you may lose every shred of information you’ve developed, collected and organized over the years. Make sure you have a way to replicate these IT assets in at least one off-premise location and restore them whenever necessary.

5. Regain momentum: Even if your company only experienced a few hours of downtime, it’s important to do some damage control and make sure every employee, stakeholder and client is back on track with the tools and services they demand. This may mean coordinating an email newsletter campaign to customers to ensure everything is in order, the crisis was successfully averted and extra support if available if needed. Brand loyalty is crucial in such a competitive business environment, and you need to build back every bit of consumer confidence that may have been lost.

Boost disaster awareness, plan for National Preparedness Month

This September is National Preparedness Month, a FEMA initiative encouraging community leaders, business owners and citizens throughout the United States to boost their collective disaster recovery IQ. While planning may take different forms in these each of these contingents, the message remains intact across the board: No one is exempt from the devastating effects of a natural disaster, and everyone must take measures to ensure a safe, smart and speedy plan is in place, if and when such an event does occur.

Details of a disaster
FEMA has created a wide range of materials to saturate the nation’s communities and businesses with information to build awareness during National Preparedness Month. For instance, the organization developed hazard profiles running the gamut from earthquakes, floods and hurricanes to tornados, wildfires and winter storms. Recognizing the dangers of each individual phenomenon and the regions in which they are most likely to occur can help participants better prepare themselves for a crisis situation. Knowledge is power when it comes to disaster preparedness.

The campaign’s slogan, “Be Disaster Aware, Take Action to Prepare,” is a strong reflection of the philosophy behind this approach, emphasizing the importance of proactive decision-making in the realm of disaster planning. Organizations, towns and cities can’t wait until a crisis is upon them to build a haphazard emergency strategy – thinking two steps ahead of the next storm, quake or fire is the only way to ensure that these events are navigated with confidence and calm.

A focus on business
Because it is responsible for promoting sound disaster preparedness in nearly every corner of the country’s infrastructure, FEMA can’t leave a single stone unturned when it comes to laying out best practices, offering guidance to decision-makers and providing support for communities in need. That’s not to say the organization hasn’t structured a specific preparedness model for businesses, however. In fact, FEMA’s ‘Prepare My Business’ website holds a wealth of valuable resources for companies that want to assess, develop and even overhaul their disaster planning outlooks entirely.

There are countless compelling reasons for business leaders to take this opportunity and strengthen their disaster recovery profiles. Aside from the immediate structural and material damages that must be addressed soon after an event occurs, executives must factor in the long-term costs of missed business opportunities that accumulate every second they take to bring their operations back online. Agility Recovery pointed to research in a recent infographic explaining 40 percent of businesses never reopen their doors following a disaster.

Prepare with expert allies 
The executive board can likely tackle the projects of risk assessment and hazard identification fairly easily, but not all companies can rely completely on their own resources and expertise to deliver the goods when it comes to an actionable recovery strategy. In the spirit of National Preparedness Month, business leaders should consult with seasoned business continuity and disaster recovery solutions providers to help them bring their blueprints to life. By bridging the gap between planning and execution, C-level members and stakeholders can finally achieve the peace of mind they want.

Of course, an alliance with a third-party provider must be approached with as much focus and effort as any internal initiatives, especially in the first stages of the consultation. Executives must sufficiently convey their planning requirements, describe the most common threats that face their operations and continually evaluate their strategies as their organization changes over time. Viewing recovery as an ever-evolving strategic component rather than a quick, Band-Aid fix is often the key that separates effective plans from those that fall short when the going gets tough.

Can you depend on your disaster recovery strategy?

Every great company has had to roll the dice at some point in order to reach the next level of success. Whether decision-makers invest in a controversial new technology or take their company public in a difficult economy, there really is no such thing as reward without a bit of risk. Of course, every business choice must be weighed carefully in this competitive digital environment, and IT decisions are subject to much scrutiny in the board room as a result.

If you are trying to convince your associates that a disaster recovery solution is the best decision for the company, you must be confident that the suggested strategy will be comprehensive and dependable when employees and customers need resources most.

Lock down a vendor that knows the lay of the land
Since disaster recovery plans can be tedious to create and maintain for internal IT staff, it is crucial that you partner with a service provider that can deliver a reliable solution to your businesses backup and continuity needs. Presenting your thoughts to an executive team can be a daunting task, and the support of an experienced vendor can make the process less of an ordeal.

Continuity Central recently pointed to the importance of having a team of experts on your side when beginning a disaster recovery planning journey, as no two companies are alike. A tailored solution is necessary for a complete approach.

“In a world of ever increasing dependence on third party vendors, you need to know if you can count on the other party when a crisis strikes,” said Phil Samson, principal in PwC’s Risk Assurance practice and business continuity management services leader, told the source. “It’s all about transparency – asking the right questions and pushing the right levers to determine whether your vendors will be able to weather a serious business interruption and quickly resume business as usual.”

Team up to create a disaster recovery blueprint
The IT landscape is no longer defined by in-house operations and isolated teams working toward their own goals – businesses must now reach out and deploy a range of third party services in order to gain a competitive edge. Nevertheless, you should always proceed with caution when leveraging any new tech solution, thoroughly evaluating your own company’s needs and what vendors can truly bring to the table.

Continuity Central recommended that while you should trust your disaster recovery provider 100 percent, you must never breeze through the screening process when determining the best fit.

“The more you know about your own needs, your vendor’s capabilities, and the robustness of your resiliency plans, the more comfort you’ll have about staying on track toward your long-term strategic and operational goals even when faced with adverse developments,” Samson said, according to the source.

Don’t lay the responsibilities of disaster recovery on your own IT squad when there are specialists devoted solely to continuity and backup. Focus on growing your company while the experts weave the safety net you need to stay on top in today’s business world.