Monthly Archives: July 2015

Data management comprehension key to continuity

As business leaders who have been around for more than a decade have probably noticed already, the best practices of disaster recovery and continuity have evolved significantly as time has gone on. In the late 2000s, virtually every recommendation to small business owners, specifically, was to ensure that data was backed up, located in at least two locations at any given time to mitigate the threat of loss from natural and man-made disasters. 

Now, the story is a bit more complex, with network virtualization, infrastructure fortifications, strategic adjustments and even more intense data loss prevention demands all becoming common requirements of organizations across the country. In continuity, nothing beats comprehension, as an exhaustive strategy that covers all bases in one fell swoop will tend to have the strongest success rates thanks to minimized vulnerability and proactively mitigated risks. 

Data's wide-reaching requirements
Data backup appears to be thoroughly understood by the nation's public and private sectors, especially as more entities begin to migrate their filing systems into virtualized and cloud-based environments. However, other components within IT will have a direct impact on the accessibility and integrity of data when a disaster strikes, including infrastructure, platforms, software and devices. 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has pointed out that the architecture involved in general IT frameworks, as well as disaster recovery plans themselves, should be a major focus of leaders working on these strategies. According to the agency, more elastic and basic iterations of architecture will tend to be the most easily defended against loss and disruption, so while being thorough is not an option, companies ought to focus on simplifying these frameworks as much as possible. 

Data loss prevention is reliant upon more than simple backup plans. Data loss prevention is reliant upon more than simple backup plans.

Network fortifications, as well as server and device protection, will also need to be optimized to give the firm 360-degrees of defense against outages, disruptions and loss should an event sprout up unexpectedly. By leveraging the right solutions to backup the plans, businesses can then focus on the more strategic aspects of comprehensive data protection that transcends simple avoidance of loss or misplacement. 

Total protection
Continuity plans are not only defined by a firm's resistance to pure data loss or outages. Instead, it should account for all of the threats to systems, information, users and assets. 

Here are the three categories that must be touched upon in plans to complement backups for loss prevention:

  • Security: Protecting against data breaches can certainly be viewed as a continuity-related matter, as one major event can cause the company to close its doors forever. 
  • Compliance: Failing to meet the requirements of any and all regulatory statutes the business falls under by way of IT and data management can threaten continuity as well. 
  • Accessibility: What good will data be when users cannot access it? The channels and devices used to access information should be protected against disruption. 

By being as exhaustive and thorough as possible in these strategies, small businesses can ensure stronger resilience against disasters and disruptions in the future. 

Helpful guidance in disaster recovery planning

Downtime has become one of the greater threats to corporate operational continuity in the past few years, and so many different types of issues can directly lead to major problems with IT department functionality and general processes in other areas of business. This is among the many reasons why companies – notably small businesses – have begun to invest more into continuity and disaster recovery assets, as the cost of outages can be monumental.

For example, Gartner’s Andrew Lerner reported last summer that the average cost of an outage will generally begin at $5,600 for each minute of network downtime, and work into the hundreds of thousands of dollars when reaching hours of consistent disruption. Considering the fact that some of the more effective and powerful solutions that can deter downtime will be far more affordable than those damages, the time is right to continue expanding upon fortifications to infrastructure, software and any assets that are used to manage data.

Simple suggestions
Research and Markets recently released a report on disaster recovery, enterprise security and outsourced cloud services that revealed some of the more consistent trends in continuity planning among modern businesses. According to the report, a challenging aspect of disaster recovery within the survey pool was found to be symptomatic of poor testing and refinement leading up to an actual event.

For years now, this has been a widely discussed topics in the recovery and continuity realms, as so many organizations will put a wealth of time and effort into developing a tight plan, then not test it and see it fail when push comes to shove. The analysts stated that the much higher frequency of companies leveraging cloud computing to backup data is worthy of admiration, but that few understand the other aspects of continuity.

Testing needs to be a priority within DR plans.
Testing needs to be a priority within DR plans.

Data backup is a primary demand of recovery, but network issues, other problems within the infrastructure, application outages and more can wreak just as much havoc on normal operations, if not more. To get moving in the right direction, Research and Markets suggested focusing on two core matters – recovery time objective and recovery point objective – with a specific focus on being exhaustive and comprehensive when listing the various requirements to achieve these goals.

Always test
Simply put, a disaster recovery plan that does not include direct and clear components related to testing and refinement will not be all that useful over time. Even if the company has developed an iron-tight plan for the moment, the progression and evolution of threats moves so quickly that these strategies will likely be irrelevant before long. In some situations, businesses will not have the skills or resources necessary to complete testing and revision procedures accurately, and this is when a managed service provider can be highly useful.

Since the business will be highly reliant upon the functionality of these plans to survive, investing in outsourced services ought to be viewed as a worthy investment when necessary.

More evidence that DR must be a priority

Not so long ago, federal agencies were urging small business owners to begin taking disaster recovery and continuity planning a bit more seriously, and for good reason. The numbers were decisively stacked against entrepreneurs, with studies finding that the majority of smaller firms were at risk of having to close their doors forever should a major event strike and cause a long-lasting outage of operations.

Natural disasters were the talk of the town back in the late 2000s, but it appears as though modern technologies such as cloud computing and virtualization have helped to reduce the sting of these threats. Now, man-made disasters and glitches appear to be the most dangerous risks out there, and this was evidenced by countless events that have taken place in the past few years, including the recent outage of the New York Stock Exchange.

NYSE’s bad day
Tech Republic reported that the NYSE suffered an outage of about three hours on July 8 and, while the disruption did not have much of an impact on the market, it was enough to wreak havoc in other ways. Remember, direct financial damages are never the only types of issues an organization, or market in this situation, will face when a disaster strikes, as reputational problems can quickly arise as well.

The NYSE outage was indicative of lacking intelligence in DR programs.
The NYSE outage was indicative of lacking intelligence in DR programs.

According to the news provider, this particular event made it clear that communication in times of challenging threats needs to be tight, but was not, leading to a longer recovery time. What’s more, the source pointed out that networks and software were pegged as being the cause of the event, but that the root issue therein would involve managers’ ability to pinpoint vulnerabilities and eradicate them in stride.

Finally, Tech Republic noted that the NYSE likely could have benefited from a more tailored, effective and clearly defined response team that could have stepped in and shortened the time to a full recovery.

Everyone needs DR
Whether it’s a small business or a massive financial exchange like the NYSE, the need for intelligent and exhaustive disaster recovery plans will always be high. Organizations that do not have the utmost confidence in their own abilities to reduce the risk of outages and disruption should always consider working with professional service providers to get their strategies in order, as tapping the support available can save firms a wealth of money, time and energy down the road.

Learning disaster recovery best practices from the tough industries

Certain industries and sectors have been faced with more complex business continuity and disaster recovery demands than others, most notably those that have a wider diversity and more intense reliance upon various technologies. Health care and manufacturing might be the best examples of this given the range of compliance requirements, advanced technologies and rapidly moving market demands contained in each.

Small businesses from virtually any industry can learn how to better prepare their operations for significant challenges by looking into the mistakes and successes of others, and using the ones with the most complex obstacles as subjects in this research is a good move. Let’s take a look at how manufacturers are approaching disaster recovery, and how these practices can be applied to other types of companies’ programs and strategies.

Simplifying, streamlining
Manufacturing.net recently explained some of the core assets organizations in this sector are beginning to leverage in efforts to achieve more efficient, consistent and effective disaster recovery performances. According to the news provider, because this particular industry is so heavily rooted in automation, especially within systems management, maintenance and access, it is a bit more prone to outages.

Manufacturers are leveraging more advanced technology to protect against downtime.
Manufacturers are leveraging more advanced technology to protect against downtime.

However, the source pointed out that these firms are increasingly reliant upon more advanced backend infrastructure, such as modernized networks and cloud-based solutions, as well as virtual machines. As is the case in virtually every industry, outages and downtime can be devastating even when they do not last for longer than a few hours, as disrupted operations are difficult to reconcile in stride.

For this reason and many more, Manufacturing.net affirmed that making the switch away from traditional technology and toward hybrid IT that combines various types of assets for more resilience in the face of disaster-related situations appears to be the strongest path forward. Finally, the source argued that manufacturers ought to be using the same technologies for core operations rather than solely disaster recovery, as this can help to boost returns on investments.

Consistent advantages
Even if a small business is operating in retail and does not have as much of a reliance on technology and automation, downtime can still negatively impact brand images and the bottom line over time. As such, applying these concepts of improving the elasticity and resilience of IT and general operations with more modernized, cloud-based and hybrid frameworks can be advantageous for all firms.

Helpful tips for stronger disaster recovery performance

Small business owners face a largely uphill battle when it comes to maintaining strong disaster recovery and continuity programs, as so many different pieces of the puzzle can be missed. What’s more, the demands of these strategies, as well as the best practices and relevant technologies, continue to evolve rapidly as time goes on, meaning an optimal program today will not likely remain as such without persistent evaluations and refinements.

Luckily, entrepreneurs can take a more modern approach to DR through the use of advanced cloud-based technologies, as well as support from managed service providers who know what needs to be done from years of experience. Additionally, there are plenty of tips and tricks offered through the media given how hot of a topic this has been in the public and private sectors for years now.

The fundamentals
Stanley Nakano, the United States Small Business Administration’s Region VIII Administrator, recently published a blog in the Yankton Daily Press and Dakotan that explained some of the fundamental best practices of continuity strategy creation and execution. According to Nakano, roughly one-quarter of entrepreneurial firms will not be able to recover from a major disaster, which is why getting the basics of continuity right is so important.

Make sure your plan is 100 percent functional at all times.
Make sure your plan is 100 percent functional at all times.

The administrator suggested leaders work hard in the evaluation processes that preclude planning and work to uncover the demands of the business, while also focusing on ensuring that the entire supply chain is fortified and insurance coverage reflects the company’s risks. Nakano stressed the importance of communication during these events, and urged small business owners to create an exhaustive plan that will keep all internal employees, external suppliers and others on the same page in the event of a disaster.

Finally, he argued that the appointment of contingency-based leadership is essential, and that these particular individuals should be well-versed in the finer points of the continuity plan.

Maintain focus
Disaster recovery and continuity performances are reliant upon persistence among managers and leaders, and keeping up with trends, testing, refinements and new technologies can truly benefit operations. Remember, the very same technologies used for recovery and continuity purposes can also be a boon to daily operations, so consider deploying these options as soon as possible in such a way that aligns with various corporate objectives and needs.

The perpetual evolution of disaster recovery

Only 10 years ago, disaster recovery and business continuity were proven to be low on the average corporate priority list, and proven as such by the countless firms that were forced to shut their doors forever following a major outage. In the time since, there has been a consistent emphasis among small business advocates, government agencies and others to get these strategies in order more proactively, and strides have indeed been made in this regard.

“The private sector has not yet reached optimal DR.”

This does not necessarily mean that the private sector has reached an optimal landscape in which disaster is no longer a factor, but rather that more leaders are at least aware of the need for more progressive efforts in these areas of management. Downtime remains a devastating issue for most organizations, as a relatively short outage can lead to major headaches, financial losses and brand reputation hindrances before long.

The technologies necessary to defend against outages and disruptions are readily available today, including cloud backup and data redundancy tools, while many of the underlying solutions are already in place in the majority of businesses. The trick is to specialize management strategies to ensure that new trends are met with positive action, and that the firm is as protected as possible against the threat of disasters, be they natural or man-made.

The often overlooked requirement
Although business owners have appeared to begin embracing the fundamentals of disaster recovery and continuity, such as implementing cloud-based data backups and contingencies for apps, teamwork might sometimes be left out of the equation. The real test of a disaster plan will be how calm, cool and collected employees are when navigating the recovery process together, and how closely they can work together toward getting operations back up and running.

Testing, notably evaluations that involve simulations of what situations might occur in the event of a man-made or natural disaster that causes an outage, will help to reveal not only the effectiveness of the underlying technology, but the preparedness of the teams tasked with managing the plans as well. Bringing as many departments together and getting them on the same page is essential to ensuring the integrity of a recovery and continuity plan.

DevOps and disaster recovery should be more unified.
Disaster recovery efforts ought to be unified.

Within and outside of the IT department, businesses should test and look for gaps that are the products of poor communication or failure in the collaborative aspects of recovery. More advanced communication tools, as well as policies that accurately reflect the threats the business is trying to mitigate, can go a long way toward reducing the recovery timeframe and, as a result, actively lower the total cost of the events.

More convergence necessary
Now, it is certainly a good sign that the disaster recovery market is picking up pace so quickly, as it shows that business owners are becoming more conscious of the threats they face. Markets and Markets forecast the Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service industry to mature at a compound annual growth rate of 52.9 percent between 2015 and 2020, which would translate to expenditures expanding from $1.42 billion this year to $11.92 billion by the end of the decade.

However, convergence is necessary across the board. Cloud computing and similar advanced technologies come along with the opportunities to centralize and unify a greater variety of business operations, and passing over this endeavor is a costly mistake from both operational and financial standpoints. With more convergence, operations will likely run more smoothly despite the obstacles that sprout up along the path, and the same types of technologies that can be used for continuity will be helpful in daily activities as well.