Monthly Archives: March 2015

The business continuity, disaster recovery checklist

Disruptions can strike at any moment, damaging or destroying critical systems required for daily functions. Companies without thorough business continuity and disaster recovery strategies will struggle mightily to not only safeguard these assets, but also to respond as quickly and efficiently as possible to restore operational efficiency.

Continuity Central contributor James Stevenson recently detailed the steps required to achieve proper BC/DR protocols. Every company is different, each with its own industry-specific needs, end-user requirements and corporate goals. Firms preparing exercises to test recovery strategies must determine their site plans, layouts, actions required following disruptions, any concerns related to suppliers, customers and third parties and how these strategies will work or go wrong.

Focus on employees
Staff members are the ones who will carry out BC/DR strategies, so it is imperative for organizations to make sure participants in exercises learn from these processes. Stevenson encouraged continuity managers to start with small incidents, rather than large ones, to educate people. Once personnel have their bearings, the severity of the events can be ramped up to reflect their acumen.

"Comprehensive business continuity strategies require detailed approaches."

Another key factor related to people is making sure employees can work together. Stevenson noted having workers who have yet to collaborate on a team level participate in exercises will not yield the proper results. It is best to determine the level of training and practice required beforehand to gauge the resources needed for the workforce.

Determine objectives
As highlighted earlier, companies are different entities that have unique requirements, so their continuity initiatives must account for their personalized demands. Stevenson noted some objectives can include IT disaster responses, social media use, incident control rooms, communications solutions, evacuation routes, off-site recovery plans and collaboration with emergency services, among others.

Companies can also determine the success of some of these objectives if they test for simple passes or failures. Stevenson wrote an example of this approach can include whether recovery responses for certain systems are completed within a certain time frame.

Recovery specialists help companies with every facet of their disaster preparedness. Recovery specialists help companies with every facet of their disaster preparedness.

Bring in some fresh eyes
With so many steps required to complete thorough recovery initiatives, businesses should not hesitate to contact recovery specialists for assistance in crafting their protocols, educating employees and conducting tests to identify any vulnerabilities that may impact response times. These service providers are also knowledgeable on how clients should back up critical data, whether employing secondary sites, cloud-based environments or a mix of both options to cover all bases would be best.

Firms that have yet to experience a major disruption, whether from prolonged power outages or Mother Nature-related incidents involving inclement weather, should not rely on this good fortune for much longer. Some companies that are hit with disasters never reopen their doors if the incident is severe. Not only do businesses in this position lose hours or days worth of revenue, they also have frustrated customers and clients on their hands who may seek service from rival brands that can are available around the clock.

It is always best to plan ahead, rather than be reactive when disruptions occur. Following these helpful tips and partnering with reputable recovery specialists should position companies in the right direction when it comes to responding to all types of disasters.

Rough winter weather exposes unprepared businesses

The Northeast part of the United States has been blanketed with snow recently, emphasizing comprehensive business continuity and disaster recovery strategies. Unfortunately, a new FM Global-commissioned survey of U.S. workers discovered 32 percent gave their employers grades of Cs, Ds or Fs for their winter storm preparedness. More than 50 percent of respondents are unsatisfied with their companies' readiness for future events.

Brion Callori, senior vice president of engineering and research at FM Global, explained the survey results shed light on how businesses must better prepare themselves for winter storms.

"Insurance won't bring back lost customers, market share or fix a damaged corporate reputation for unprepared businesses. A business continuity plan which has been well-tested and communicated to employees can address such risk and help companies avoid costly physical and financial losses," Callori said.

Some tips for improvement
Companies that overlooked disaster preparedness this winter should use this opportunity to improve their future business continuity and disaster recovery strategies. Heavy snowfall can make offices inaccessible or cause leaks that may damage sensitive equipment.

"Winter weather is another event that tests disaster preparedness."

FM Global encouraged organizations to plan for future winter storms as if they will experience freeze-ups at some point. Firms should also determine if their office roofs are weak in any areas. Appointing staff members to constantly check building integrity for cold spots, pipe breaks or structural damage is also an effective preparation strategy.

Finally, FM Global indicated businesses should have procedures in place to maintain heating during operation shutdowns.

Bring in recovery experts
With spring right around the corner, firms may not give winter much thought until much later in the year. However, if these past few months have taught organizations anything it is that weather is unpredictable. Businesses that have had no issues so far in 2015 with blizzards should not rely on this good fortune continuing.

Disasters can strike at any moment. Companies that want to make significant improvements to their business continuity and disaster preparedness policies should contact recovery specialists to identify any vulnerabilities with their current strategies. These service providers also make recommendations for data backups, which are essential for protecting mission-critical resources from disruptions and enabling end-users to access information to perform their jobs.

Mother Nature is unforgiving many times, throwing powerful storms at organizations across the country. Snow may not receive the bulk of the attention when it comes to weather-related disasters, but companies cannot overlook any type of event that may negatively impact their ability to perform on a daily basis. Recovery specialists will make sure they can respond quickly following any type of disruption.

Modern BC/DR strategies offer world of options

Disasters can strike at any moment, sometimes with warning and, in other instances, without any. As technology has evolved, so too have the ways in which firms can shore up IT infrastructures, back up mission-critical data and restore operations as quickly as possible. Companies that want to improve their business continuity and disaster recovery strategies are able to do so with myriad solutions.

Backups are often at the center of disaster preparedness. Content, whether corporate information or consumer assets, is the lifeblood of many organizations. Firms without access to this valuable data cannot function to the best of their abilities consistently. This is the reason companies often employ backups that include the most important assets.

But keeping these devices at the office is not effective. If disasters strike a company's office, the IT systems are vulnerable to damage or full destruction, which is the same fate the backups will experience if they are stored at the office. Businesses that rely on physical tools should have secondary sites available to protect these systems.

The cloud is also a possibility
Companies that desire faster access to data following disruptions can adopt cloud computing. Cloud environments are available through Internet connections, enabling staff members to use devices such as PCs, tablets and smartphones to access information, regardless of location. This capability comes in handy should a business's office remain closed while cleanup is taking place.

"Companies can take more than one street with their BC/DR strategies."

The cloud is also more flexible in that organizations do not have to worry about recovering assets from secondary sites and transporting the backups to the office. However, companies should not solely just rely on the cloud for their recovery efforts. If the service provider offering access to cloud suites experiences a disruption of its own, the customer will be unable to maintain operations.

This is why it is best to blend the best of both the physical and cloud worlds when shoring up business continuity and disaster recovery initiatives to not take any chances when a Mother Nature-related event, human error or power outage occurs.

Recovery specialists help clients address all facets of their DR/BC strategies. Recovery specialists help clients address all facets of their DR/BC strategies.

Let recovery specialists take a look
Plenty of businesses rely on IT systems daily that are in industries well outside of the tech industry. Companies in this position should consider seeking help from third-party specialists. These service providers can be the foundation of customers' business continuity and disaster recovery strategies, whether that involves suggestions for which data backups to employ, how to educate employees on best practices and the steps to take to achieve full recovery.

Organizations should be focused solely on their core values and goals, generating revenue, delivering improved customer service and expanding into new markets. Without service providers in their corner, companies would have to devote less time and resources toward disaster preparedness. Firms that enlist the help of recovery specialists will no longer have to fret over maintaining assets themselves, instead relying on experts to make sure they are ready to be proactive, not reactive, during disasters. 

Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service market poised for rapid growth

The disaster preparedness industry has evolved significantly over the years, thanks to key technological advancements that have enabled organizations to safeguard critical resources from potential disruptions. Cloud computing in particular has helped firms migrate applications from on-site systems to hosted environments accessible through the Internet.

A TechNavio report indicated the global Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service industry will expand at a compound annual growth rate of 52.1 percent between 2014 and 2019.

What is causing such impressive annual growth rates? Faisal Ghaus, vice president of TechNavio, explained large enterprises and small and medium-sized businesses are expected to implement hybrid cloud computing services for disaster recovery purposes during the forecast period.

The firm also believes virtualization usage for storage purposes will also contribute to the expanding DRaaS industry. 

The functions of hybrid clouds
Hybrid cloud computing blends the best of on-premise systems and resources at hosted environments managed by vendors. TechNavio explained hybrid models enable organizations to no longer maintain secondary disaster sites, improve traditional disaster preparedness solutions and offer recovery capabilities to remote offices.

This last point is critical, since more employees are working at off-site locations, especially sales personnel who can perform tasks from mobile devices such as laptops, TechNavio added.

Hybrid-based DRaaS also offers more benefits to adopters. The research firm said these solutions help organizations reduce operating expenses and safeguard physical and virtual operating systems, all while still retaining on-site data for quick recovery times.

"Cloud computing is making inroads into the disaster recovery marketplace."

The cloud's accessibility is important following disruptions. A TwinStrata survey from 2014 discovered only 12 percent of companies could retrieve mission-critical data in hours. Less than 10 percent of respondents indicated on-site solutions could facilitate this capability, compared to more than double the percentage of firms relying on cloud models.

The ability to recover data as quickly as possible is essential to maintaining operations, especially with customer service. If consumers or clients are unable to receive support in a timely fashion, these groups may look to the competition to satisfy their needs.

The TwinStrata study found nearly two-thirds of organizations measure recovery time in days, not hours. Almost 30 percent of participants said it takes an average of four days to restore operations.

For brands expected to be available, four days is far too long to maintain a positive image, generate revenue and fulfill customer and client service.

"Once again, we see in this survey organizations using the cloud as a means to address some of their standard storage problems such as backup have a significant advantage over those that don't. That fact, coupled with the lower cost, lower maintenance model that cloud storage provides makes it an easy way for organizations to improve their ability to quickly recover," explained Nicos Vekiarides, CEO of TwinStrata.

Recovery specialists can help organizations employ the best backup systems to fit their businesses. Recovery specialists can help organizations employ the best backup systems to fit their businesses.

Whether in the cloud or on-site, trust industry professionals
Cloud computing offers its fair share of advantages compared to on-site recovery systems, but no solution is infallible. What if the cloud vendor responsible for keeping these suites functional experiences an outage itself ? Having physical backups at a secondary location can serve organizations in these distressing times.

Firms that want to shore up their business continuity and disaster preparedness strategies moving forward should contact recovery specialists to determine the best course of action. These service providers are helpful sources for identifying which approaches will yield the best results when disruptions strike.

These vendors can be companies' way to make sure all of their bases are covered regarding how they back up data, how they educate employees regarding recovery strategies and how critical applications are restored following floods, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, power outages and disruptions caused by human error.