Depending where your business is located, the risk attached natural disasters can vary. To help, here is a survival reference guide to ensure your business can weather any storm. Since it is hurricane season, let's use hurricanes as a point of reference for this guide. Hurricanes and tropical storms wreak havoc through a combination of heavy wind and rain. They may also be accompanied by surging tides that flood that affected area.
Hurricanes and tropical storms impact businesses in the following 3 ways:
Damage to the facility due to high winds, flooding, and objects that become high-speed projectiles capable of smashing through windows, roofs and other structures.
Extended power outages, road closures, and other lasting damages can put a facility out of reach for at least a week.
Regional impact can affect customers, supplies, and business partners - as well as the homes of employees.
On average, a dozen named storms occur along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts each year. Major disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, illustrate the potential damage that can result when these events strike heavy populated areas.
Approaching storms usually have an advance warning as they approach. However, because the paths of the storm are difficult to predict, these warnings can often be false alarms. THis si the reason why some businesses fail to respond to storm warning due to the "Cry Wolf" syndrome.
Hurricanes and tropical storms can put a data center out of commission for a day or longer. All businesses, especially those operating in hurricane-prone areas, should be prepared. Preparation should include the following:
Continuous off-site backup of data and applications.
The ability to restore IT operations in the cloud and/or site in an area less likely to be affected by the storm. This can be areas that are more inland from the coast.
Website posting that alerts customers and partners about storm preparation-along with frequent post-storm updates to track the progress of recovery.
Major storms can affect regions for an extended period of time. Business continuity plans need to include the following:
Availability of a sufficient facility, away from the affected area.
Temporary housing necessary for key employees whose homes are also in the path of the storm.
Internal communications for keeping employees updated on resource availability and recovery status.
Any required third-party contracting for key services, such as shipping & receiving, mail processing, etc.
Aside from making sure their own operations continue uninterrupted in the event of a regional disaster, businesses should be prepared to help their nearby customers and partners to get through the crisis. Planning should include:
Communications with local/regional customers and suppliers who may also be impacted by the storm in advance.
Pre-determined policies regarding turnaround times, invoice processing, scheduled service visits, and other activities affected by the storm.
Direct servicing of customers by supply chain partners, where feasible.
Ten years after Katrina devastated New Orleans, IT pros say being less dependent on physical locations is just one of the keys to ensuring your company doesn’t go out of business when disaster strikes.
It’s hard to be truly prepared to take the full impact of a Category 5 hurricane. Ten years ago, in the case of Hurricane Katrina and the city of New Orleans, there was the added devastation of flooding caused by failed levees. It will hopefully be a very long time before another disaster of that magnitude strikes New Orleans, or any other city for that matter, but organizations still need to be prepared for such an event. As it turns out, the cloud is an ideal tool for managing the risks associated with a hurricane or other natural disaster.
Even prior to Hurricane Katrina it was a security mantra and data protection best practice to ensure at least one backup of crucial data was maintained offsite. The logic being simply that you don’t want your primary data storage and all of your backups to be destroyed in the same hurricane, fire, flood or earthquake.
Offsite backups solve only part of the problem, though, if your servers and data are maintained locally. When disaster strikes and wipes out your primary data, you’ll have to acquire the backup data, deploy and configure new hardware at some secondary location, and restore the data. You’re still looking at days of downtime in a best-case scenario.
Embracing the cloud to reduce risk
The city of New Orleans and businesses like Entergy and DirectNIC that struggled to survive the devastation of Hurricane Katrina learned some valuable lessons. One of the primary caveats when it comes to business continuity is to mitigate risk by embracing the cloud.
Lamar Gardere, director of information technology and innovation for the City of New Orleans, admits that things were still in disarray when the current administration took office in 2010. The IT infrastructure was aging and many of the city’s critical applications were still being run on physical servers.
One of Gardere’s first tasks was to modernize onto a highly virtualized infrastructure to allow for servers to be quickly created, resized and moved from one site to another in the case of a major disaster. “We created a private cloud with the ability to leverage all the same capabilities as you might imagine are available if you were using Amazon’s cloud, for example. This flexibility is at the heart of our disaster recovery capabilities and allows us to quickly transfer/failover services to remote locations,” Gardere says. “During normal times, it also allows us to maximize our infrastructure investment, consolidate IT resources across areas of government, better manage resources remotely and respond more quickly to our customers.”
DirectNIC is one of a few businesses that managed to stay up and running during Katrina – partly a result of being prepared and partly a function of being safely on the 11th floor well above any flood damage. Even DirectNIC learned a thing or two from Hurricane Katrina, though. Vernon Decossas, CEO of DirectNIC explains, “We host our own operations, however, we also have the ability to move our operations onto cloud providers within the span of hours. It’s provided a peace of mind that we can keep our operations going regardless of external issues.”
Gardere also elaborates on the decision to implement a private cloud rather than simply provisioning services from one of the public cloud providers. He notes there are pros and cons to public cloud for any organization and that the city weighed those on a per-application basis to determine the best solution. “The City uses the cloud strategically and where appropriate to take advantage of its convenience while avoiding some of its problems. Perhaps most notably, the City has moved its payroll system to the cloud using ADP, ensuring that this critical but low bandwidth application is available regardless of the state of the City’s IT environment.”
Moving beyond the cloud
Leveraging the cloud and moving critical servers and data to a cloud-based infrastructure will help organizations in New Orleans mitigate risk and maintain business continuity the next time a major natural disaster occurs, but it’s not enough by itself. Beyond the cloud, organizations also must have a clearly defined business continuity and disaster recovery plan in place and have staff that are properly trained to execute it when the time comes.
“Entergy holds yearly storm drills to prepare all of our employees for what may come. We use that time to talk about ‘what ifs’ and come up with solutions to questions posed during the drills,” says Kay Jones, a spokesperson for Entergy. “We use this time to get better at responding and be prepared for any situation that can arise when a storm hits our service territory.”
Gardere stresses the importance of performing regular maintenance on backup equipment that rarely sees use and talked about how the City of New Orleans continues to strive toward more complete testing and monitoring procedures. “We perform semi-annual tests of basic back up functions and hold an annual table-top exercise simulating a hurricane to test strategy execution. We refresh documentation and review roles and responsibilities on an annual basis.”
Live to fight another day
For some companies even the best business continuity and disaster recovery plan won’t help. A local restaurant or the corner gas station can’t just continue operating from the cloud or move to an alternate location. No amount of practicing or preparing will enable such a business to remain operational while it’s literally under water.
Those businesses can still benefit from using cloud-based applications and data storage to ensure those things survive the catastrophe, though, and thankfully most businesses are not that dependent on the specific physical location. By moving critical systems and data to the cloud and practicing to smoothly implement business continuity and disaster recovery procedures organizations can mitigate the risk of the next Katrina-like event and be prepared to continue operations.
Every business owner understands the importance of planning and the proper implementation of said plans. However, after everything is set up, it's easy to overlook the testing of one's plans, which can really come back to hurt you when all of your careful planning falls apart. Nowhere is this more true than with data recovery.
Data backup and recovery is a major part of your business continuity plan. When your business is faced with a disastrous event causing downtime due to data loss, the recovery of your lost data is crucial to getting your business up and running again--and the faster the better. In a dreaded scenario such as this, your next step is to put your data recovery solution into place and hope for the best. How confident are you that when you restore your backup, everything will work as it should? This is where testing comes into the picture.
Going through the effort of testing will prepare your business for unforeseen problems with your backup solution. In an interview with Processor magazine, Adrian Sanabria, senior security analyst of 451 Research, gave an example of a common data recovery scenario gone wrong due to the lack of testing. "It's no good to switch over to disaster recovery (DR) and find that your Tier 0 application won't run because the DR environment is three releases behind. If DR will be expected to support a full production load, plan it as such."
Testing should be done regularly. Many IT professionals agree that a complete test of your backup systems should be done at least once per quarter, and there's no harm in testing more frequently, like monthly or even weekly.
Logistically, testing your company's backup systems may sound like a burdensome task, especially if you're a larger company with multiple departments and multiple locations. Like any project, one way that you can make backup testing easier is to spread it out. For example, a larger corporation may test out a few locations at a time instead of testing every system at once.
Another way that you can test your backup solution is to periodically run your entire business off of it. This the surest way to know that your business can withstand a disaster. Sanabria tells Processor of a major retail company that tested their data backup systems this way:
They'd actually switch production over to DR once every three months and run the DR environment as production for a full week before switching back. The first few tests were difficult, but the outcome was worth the dedication, because they never worry about whether their DR environment will work.
Any way you slice it, testing a company's backup solution is a time-consuming task that only gets done if the organization understands the value of their data as part of their business continuity plan. If regular testing of your company's backup seems like too burdensome of a task, you can outsource it to QWERTY Concepts. We offer businesses of all sizes our comprehensive Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR) solution. Our BDR solution is much faster compared to the more traditional tape backup systems that some businesses still use. A tape backup could take as much as 40 hour to thoroughly test the integrity of the backed up data, while a BDR may only take an hour to restore.
BDR is the most secure way to backup and recover your company's data. Included with our BDR solution is having us monitor and oversee the entire data backup and recovery process so that you don't have to, which includes regular testing. This will give you peace of mind that if a disaster strikes your business, your data will be just fine and operations will be up and running again as soon as possible. Call us at (877) 793-7891 to learn more about backing up with the QWERTY BDR.
Finding a good Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR) solution is not as easy as it seems. With so many options and providers out there - it's easy to get lost in the hussle and bustle. And though many solutions are re-branded versions of the same product, they each offer unique advantages that may seem appealing. Below are 3 common BDR misconceptions.
A new disaster recovery solution will replace my current backup solution
Many business owners and managers hear backup and believe they already have a system in place, but that's usually not the case. They typically forget about the disaster recovery and business continuity aspect. In addition many customers believe a new BDR solution will simply replace their existing backup solution. The truth is, a BDR solution offers more, much more.
To properly protect a company's data, a full BDR offering includes not only backup, but disaster recovery and some form of business continuity, too. Because every company's needs vary - this cannot be done via a template. Picking the right IT solutions provider is a critical step to building a disaster recovery and business continuity plan.
Many confuse a Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR) solution to be a cloud-based backup solution. Because of the hype of the cloud, many simply fail to understand the importance of local backup and disaster recovery. One thing many don't realize, is that the cloud backup is only as good as the line sending the data - and speed is not the only critical factor.
Restoring an entire server from the cloud is not as quick as snapping your fingers. We are dealing with the natural inheritance of data transfer here. Potentially hundreds or thousands of gigabytes need to be downloaded back to a new server in order to restore from a cloud-based backup. Having a BDR solution will easily provide a much faster recovery time for this very reason, in addition to being able to act as the server(s) in the event there is a failure. This now saves time waiting on a new server/hardware replacement to arrive to only begin the restoration process.
I can be up in hours, not days
Many claim their existing backup solution will have them up and running quickly, within an hour or two. Most likely that is because of what has been advertised. And perhaps that can be achieved, assuming that you fit into the best case scenario. Many have not thought through the many scenarios and problems that could turn the assumption of a one or two hour restore into a day, a week, or even longer.
The truth is grim
If you Google "BDR restore success rate" you will be surprised not to find much, if any, information. That is largely because no one will advertise the failures, only the best case scenarios. Often backup restorations fail and QWERTY Concepts became a victim of this when providing a solution to clients that was over-promised. In the end, the clients were not happy because their expectations were not met, the employees were not happy because they had to work extra hours and deliver the bad news, and the management was not happy because clients and employees were leaving.
Because of this company's core values and integrity, they've changed focus to deliver on Clients' expectations and they found that challenging the industry status quo was necessary. After years of research, development, testing, and improvements the QWERTY BDR solution comes with something no one else can give, a promise. QWERTY Concepts offers a guarantee to restore your environment - locally or in the cloud - and if the restoration fails, they will dispatch all available resources and even install the required temporary hardware to ensure up-time and continuity.
Before creating a good business continuity plan, let’s outline the business continuity types, which must be considered when compiling a business continuity plan. The one thing you should really know, which your IT service provider may not clearly define, is that most backup & disaster recovery solutions are simply that – backup & disaster recovery. Though most backup and disaster recovery solutions have their flaws, we will not be discussing that in this article.
Disaster Recovery Solutions
It is probably safe to assume that you have a backup and disaster recovery solution in place. That is a great start, but have you thought about the business continuity plan of the equation? Let’s say for instance you have one server which provides your users with access to files and application(s) on the network. If this server is down due to a hardware failure, and your backup and disaster recovery solution comes through for you, your users on the network will continue to work and access to these files and applications as before the failure. This confirms that your core disaster recovery plan is in place. It should always be tested on a regular basis by your IT provider to ensure its reliability over time.
A Business Continuity Plan
Now, let’s talk about the other possibilities of failures where you will see how a business continuity plan is really different than disaster recovery. As with most companies, you probably have one or more users that really play a key role in your company. What would happen in the case their computer hardware failed? It is unlikely that you have a spare PC, but even if you do, it takes time to configure it for the user, migrate (or restore) their data, install the required applications, and get it ready for the user to get back to work as before. During this downtime, the business is suffering and many business functions may be delayed, not to mention the financial and physical burden on the business. Your backup and disaster recovery solution is unlikely to help you in this case, because the user is not a server, but the business role may be just as important.
Another scenario would be if your company’s location suffers from physical damage by flood, fire, or any other natural or artificial disaster. Again, for the sake of this example, we will assume your backup and disaster recovery is also replicating to the cloud where you can recover your server(s) and expose them to the web. Once these servers have been restored, how will your users access the data on these servers? We have to assume that the location is inaccessible and whether the users are at home, a hotel, or in a temporary location - configuring their computers to get them to a working order will be a challenge and may amount to days or weeks of downtime. We are still only discussing the data part of the business continuity plan, but wow will your users communicate with your customers, vendors, and each other? What will be the physical and financial burden of the business in these cases? These are the questions you need to be asking yourself. Though this is not a situation of data loss, being down for days or weeks can be catastrophic to the survivability of your business.
A Business Continuity Plan is nothing to mess with
Your business data is nothing to mess with - that is why a bullet-proof business continuity plan is necessary. At QWERTY Concepts, we understand the importance of up-time, and the burden downtime has on the business. With this in mind, our internal R&D department has spent years developing, testing, and improving our backup & disaster recovery solutions, cloud disaster recovery solutions, business continuity plans, and cloud computing solutions. With 75% of all businesses in the US being small businesses – QWERTY Concepts focuses on building enterprise-level technology solutions to cater to the majority of America’s businesses.
All businesses need to have an effective business continuity plan in case of some problem with their regular operations. This problem can be anything from a natural disaster to power failure or an accident which may lead to collapse of day to day routine affairs. In the present times, when so much of our work is dependent on IT infrastructure, we should plan for the situations in case this infrastructure breaks down or comes under undue stress. This is exactly the kind of situations for which a business continuity Plan is required. This plan is prepared after an overall review of your entire operations by an expert agency. The experienced personnel who are generally the senior system engineers will evaluate the importance of various operations and data processes and then prepare an alternative strategy to be adopted in case of their failure. Such a plan is very important for the quick revival and continuity of operations which may otherwise take a lot of time to recover and come back to normal.
Apart from being an operational necessity and a good working practice, a business continuity plan may be also be required for statutory purposes. More and more insurance companies and contractors are demanding that the businesses should have an effective business continuity plan in place which takes over in case of any kind of breakdown and hence the continuation of services is maintained. There are many ways to go about preparing this plan. However the best way would be to hire a professionally Managed IT Services NJ company who has experience and expertise to handle such projects. Select a few of such listed companies and you can then ask them to give you a quote of the estimated cost of setting up and managing such a plan. Do look at the experience of the shortlisted companies and if it is possible, you may also review some of their completed assignments to see the level of coverage that they are providing.
Once you have decided on the company to work out your effective business continuity plan for your organization, you may then focus on the various parameters that are to be included in this plan. This will depend entirely on the nature of your operations. If your company provides web based services such as website designing and management or organic search engine optimization services, then your continuity plan will need to be quite comprehensive. The reason here is that any discontinuity is not going to affect only your operations but also those of your clients who have relied on your services. Thus a holistic review of your entire activities would be very crucial in determining the level of support that you would be requiring. One must follow the safest approach which is both effective and economical as the cost implication of the whole operation is also to be considered. Thus a company should prepare a business continuity plan which covers all their critical areas and is still within their budget.
Not all backup and recovery solutions are created equal. Without argument the most critical aspect of any successful business is the safety of their data and operational continuity under all circumstances. Data loss has been a reality of life and no amount of safety and security features could completely eliminate this possibility. The reasons for this data loss might be anything from accidental deletion of files to system crash or maybe a power failure or a fire at the workplace, an act of nature or an actual accident. In any case, this threat has always been a great hindrance to business operations and there had been no credible tools to make complete recovery which at the best used to be partial and would result in heavy losses and other associated problems. But these are now things of the past as new age technology and cloud computing has given us a fail-proof Backup and Recovery Solution which is safe, secure, and automatic - but most importantly is expected to work in all possible conditions. Always make sure your cloud data is stored in a certified, preferably SSAE16 Type II data centers and is available at all times without any breaks or interruptions.
The way this backup and recovery system works is simply amazing. With this backup and recovery solution in place, there is no need for numerous system back-ups and file duplications to alternative locations - saving you money. Once you invest in a reliable backup and recovery solution, your company is designated a space on the cloud which is a digitally safe and secure data center located at a remote location and where all your files, databases, emails, drawings and pictures or any other digital media are automatically transferred. This is an excellent way to back-up all your files on individual machines and office servers as the whole process is online and no manual intervention is required. Moreover you have the flexibility to access these files from any location around the world through a mobile device or where you have access to a computer and an internet connection. With the digital data increasing at a huge rate each year, it makes sense to invest in cloud computing where you can choose a pay-as-you-go model and thus save on huge equipment investment as well as on the maintenance cost for the same.
Any organizations first and foremost priority is to ensure safety of their customer details and maintain continuity of their services at any cost. Although we all take adequate measures to protect ourselves and would like to believe that no harm would come to us but at the same time we also take insurance to protect against any unforeseen circumstances or accidents which might occur. If we apply this principle to all aspects of our life, we shall also apply it for the purpose of data safety and Business Continuity so that our precious database and information is always effectively backed-up and recovered for us without any delays. This is not only critical from the point of productivity and maintenance of service to clients without any interruption but it is also crucial for the very survival of your organization as any delay in restoration of service or loss of data can result in terminal losses and other legal liabilities.
A well-planned life is far better than disorganized life. Today is a world of advanced techniques and information technology. Information technology has been dominating and ruling since many years. However, there is no particular time and place of a natural calamity. Nobody can predict about catastrophe and they occur without any prior information. Being a businessman, it is our responsibility to survive as long as possible. We have to focus on how to achieve our business targets. Apart from many competitors, we are surrounded by menaces such as natural misfortunes, power failures and building fires due to which we might lose productivity. Every individual wants to rise in his business. It is absolutely a true statement that if you are a businessman, sky is the limit.
An individual has multiple options like internet and phone to expand his business. Nobody can deny that nothing would be better for a person if he has a business continuity plan as it is crucial to success of business. By having a well-organized business continuity plan, it will be possible for you to overcome massive and unexpected hurdles. It is highly distressing that if human beings do not follow any business plan, they experience data loss which will never be recovered. If you are extremely worried about how to preserve in current era, business plan can be ideal solution to your problems. Every entity can easily regain access to data if one opts for a trustworthy business plan. It would be simply amazing if our needs will be assessed by senior engineers who will be readily available to provide valuable suggestions on timely basis.
Loss, downfalls or power outrages are the biggest obstacles in making a business flourishing. No matter what the circumstances are, one can get rid of all perilous situations with utilization of a business plan. As a businessman, a person is aware of this fact that even a minor mistake can have dire consequences so everyone have to be careful throughout 24/7/365. It would be a foolish act to take any risk as far as business is concerned. A plan can certainly bring positive outcomes in your business. It would be like a dream come true if your business will have appropriate infrastructure. Efficient IT services are highly beneficial for growth of business. Anyone can tackle business issues with NJ Managed IT Services.
In order to play safe - in business - and get optimum results, effective IT support is the primary requirement. It is obvious that business needs data security, network support, storage system and structure cabling. Whether a person has large or small business, systematic approach or a plan can help him to conduct it. There are so many IT consulting firms which assure that these can enhance your business, however, without any background details, reliability and relevant proof, nobody should trust any firm. One must put his unsurpassed efforts in business to grab attention of potential customers. In simple words, business continuity plan plays a vital role in making your business secure.