Monthly Archives: August 2015

Preparing for a hurricane

Hurricane season has already begun, and it is only a matter of time before the first major event of the season strikes the East Coast of the United States. Small businesses in many states have been disrupted and even destroyed by these powerful storms throughout the past few years, and those that fail to prepare properly will tend to face the greatest level of risk in the next few months as the season reaches its peak. 

Thanks to the constant innovation and progressive evolution of the disaster recovery and business continuity markets, entrepreneurs need not take a back seat and simply hope that their facilities do not get struck by a storm this summer. Rather, taking a proactive and intelligent approach to managing risk and preparing for the potential damages of a hurricane is more feasible and affordable than ever before. 

A look back
The first step is to understand exactly why the small business needs to invest in hurricane preparedness. The Long Island Press reported that Hurricane Sandy, which occurred in 2012, led to an estimated $65 billion in economic damages to the region hit the hardest by the super storm, and ushered in a new era of demand for solutions that will help entrepreneurs navigate the process of recovering from these powerful events. 

Several studies have shown a number of decision-makers will actually tend to balk on disaster preparedness and recovery investments because they feel they do not need them. Raising awareness and understanding that an unfortified company is only one major event away from closing its doors forever has been the key to protecting the small business sector and other areas of the American economy. 

Hurricane season is heating up, and entrepreneurs must prepare. Hurricane season is heating up, and entrepreneurs must prepare.

Getting the plan right
The National Hurricane Survival Initiative argued that businesses need to take a comprehensive approach to planning, ensuring that physical property, digital assets and operational processes are all safeguarded from disruption caused by a hurricane. The organization stated that the physical property component will not always be controllable, but provisions should still be included in the policy to protect the office before a hurricane swoops overhead. 

Additionally, NHSI suggested the use of backups for mission-critical data in case the primary storage environment gets knocked out or completely destroyed by the storm. In most cases, small business owners will need to provision technologies to check data backup off the list, as well as other key components to continuity. 

IT considerations
Business leaders are increasingly reliant upon modern technologies offered by managed service providers to function normally and in times of disruption such as when a hurricane strikes. The highest priorities should involve the infrastructure that employees will use to carry on with their responsibilities during and directly following a disaster, as well as the controls necessary to protect data and mission-critical apps. 

Entrepreneurs who are not confident in their hurricane preparedness and general recovery capabilities should always consider partnering with a firm that specializes in these matters, as knowledge is vital to the success of these strategies. 

Getting wise with DR

Disaster recovery is one of the more challenging aspects of business management today, as risks evolve quickly, vulnerabilities can arise with virtually no notice and forecasting major events is never an exact science. However, entrepreneurs have come a long way in the past five years or so when it comes to properly planning and executing disaster recovery strategies and policies, and this is largely the result of more shared knowledge in these matters. 

Continuity and recovery success tends to be dictated by the skill and intelligence with which small business owners and managers handle their staff, processes and technologies, as well as the acute understanding of relevant best practices. Entrepreneurs who want to boost the resilience of their operations to disruptions and outages need to ensure that they are taking a wise approach to crafting strategies, provisioning the right technologies and preparing staff members proactively. 

Wisdom in DR
First and foremost, when discussing what it takes to have a wise strategy, small business owners should always consider leveraging more advanced intelligence solutions to get the job done. Big data and similar analytical technologies can provide more accurate and timely insights regarding what needs to be done to protect the firm from disasters that range in relevance and likelihood. Knowledge always equates to power in this regard. 

However, getting the basics right is certainly important, and this begins with following best practices and guidance from the professionals regarding what needs to be done to build a strong disaster recovery foundation. Computer Weekly interviewed Paul Kirvan of the Business Continuity Institute, who offered a range of advice to business owners, including more robust use of network virtualization and recovery solutions that protect vital infrastructure from loss and disruption. 

Wisdom is vital when preparing businesses for disasters. Wisdom is vital when preparing businesses for disasters.

Additionally, Kirvan told the source that testing is essentially the most important aspect of disaster recovery planning, as a failure to evaluate the strategies in real-life situations will leave the programs' effectiveness up for debate. It might even be reasonable to say that testing – which is not always completed by all businesses – is in fact the wisest aspect of disaster recovery planning, as it will show exactly what changes need to be made to fortify operations again adverse events. 

Other intelligent steps
Computerworld once explained that staff preparation is the primary feature of disaster recovery strategies that will tend to dictate the outcomes of procedures in the event of an outage. Boosting the organizational knowledge of what the plan entails, who has what responsibilities and why those components are in place will inherently yield stronger resilience to long-term outages and damages associated with natural and man-made disasters. 

Furthermore, the news provider argued that companies should be especially interested in making smart changes to their plans following the testing procedures in place, as taking a half-hearted approach to these matters will rarely yield positive results. As always, the wisest decision for small business owners who are not fully confident in their firm's abilities to build an adequate disaster recovery plan and execute accordingly will be to use the services of a managed solution provider. 

Extreme weather continues to threaten continuity

Man-made downtime has become a bit more common of a threat of late, as lackluster management of IT and general operations will tend to yield vulnerabilities that can then cause disruption. However, because more companies are migrating to cloud computing environments, these particular issues are being mitigated more proactively among firms that have effectively outsourced their recovery, maintenance and continuity demands. 

However, natural disasters have not become less common in the past few years, instead intensifying in many parts of the country and abroad, and a wealth of businesses remain unprepared to get through one of these events. Regardless of which industry or region a company might be competing within, the need to mitigate natural disaster-related threats proactively will remain high for years to come. 

Insurance provider speaks out
Builder Online recently reported that roughly one quarter of the organizations that are faced with a natural disaster will not overcome the challenges and damages they experience in the wake of the event, and this is a sign that more needs to be done by way of recovery and continuity planning. Remember, the solutions necessary to help to seamlessly move on after a major disaster are readily available in the form of managed services, cloud backup and similar solutions.

According to the news provider, Jay Shelton of an Illinois insurance brokerage argued that business leaders will first need to understand the risks that they face, as well as which technologies and services can help to affordably reduce their threat of downtime.  Business leaders will always want to keep their plans as closely aligned to unique and specific needs as possible, as each company, and even each individual department therein, will vary in terms of demands and requirements. 

Natural disasters are becoming more frequent and damaging. Natural disasters are becoming more frequent and damaging.

The source went on to cite Shelton's recommendations to always test the plans and solutions in place, as well as the employees who are tasked with upholding the various components of recovery and continuity plans. Finally, Builder Online noted that home building firms are notoriously under-prepared to handle a major disaster as it does not often strike owners as a necessity, but that these companies and virtually all others must pay mind to these matters early and often to avoid major financial and operational disruptions. 

The brass tacks
At the end of the day, businesses will get what they give in the realm of disaster recovery and continuity, as a flippant or half-hearted commitment to these plans will rarely yield resilience to major events. Keeping in mind that the average cost of downtime is already in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for outages that last only a matter of hours, it should be clear why preventative and persistent management of these responsibilities is so important. 

Small business owners who are not entirely comfortable with their own abilities to craft and execute these plans, nor manage the technology involved, should always look toward a reliable managed service provider to get the job done right.