When Disaster Strikes Your Data
Whether a tornado blows the roof off your data center, fire fries your servers or a hacker erases everything, at some point your company’s technology infrastructure could be in peril. Your response can mean the life or death of your business, so experts emphasize that your business continuity plan needs to be in tip-top shape.
Today, every business runs on the foundation of information technology, said Mike Meikle, CEO of Hawkthorne Group, a consulting firm. However, it's the top-level management that needs to champion business continuity planning, he said.
“While IT is a big driver of business continuity planning, it is ultimately a business decision that affects the entire company,” Meikle told IT TechNewsDaily.
Meikle said a key element of a business continuity plan is to determine which 20 percent of your systems are critical to your business.
“It might be credit card data, client records or sales information and it will be different for every business,” he said. “You have to determine which lines of business are most important to who you are as a company and how long up can be without the critical information systems that run those areas.”
Speed and budgets
Once you determine the order in which systems and departments have to be back online, the rest is a matter of speed and budgets, said Guy Suter, director of product management for the Barracuda Backup Service, a backup service from Barracuda Networks.
“There may be systems that run certain parts of your business that may be acceptable to be unavailable for three days, for example” Suter said. “Once you get the critical components of your business up and running, the rest is all about speed. The schedule for other systems to come back online can be done on a sliding scale, based on their importance to your day-to-day operations and your budget.”
While the ideal situation is to have a mirror of your business, with all of the servers, systems and software in place that currently run your operation, ready to boot up in a matter of hours, that is not always economically viable
“It is a matter of managing risk,” Meikle said.
However, the advent of cloud computing, protecting your data is becoming more budget-friendly. “Thanks to these new technologies, disaster recovery is more affordable than it was two or three years ago and within reach of every business on some level,” said Paul Chisholm, chairman and CEO of mindSHIFT Technologies, Inc., a provider of IT and cloud services.
But what happens if the cloud goes down?
“I suggest that businesses store critical data in a cloud environment and have a copy locally as well,” Meikle said. “What happens if you can’t get to the cloud, or the cloud goes down, as we’ve seen recently with Amazon and other cloud services? You’re screwed if that happens and your only copy is in the clouds.”
But does it work?
While it is important to be able to spring into action when a disaster strikes, having a backup plan is futile if the backup system wasn’t working properly.
“About half of all backups fail,” said Meikle. “You have to check the success rate of your backups on a regular basis. Maybe it seems like the backup is working, but when you try to put it to use, you find that the last full backup was three weeks ago. If you need customer orders that were placed that day, that’s not acceptable.”
It is also important to regularly review your business continuity plan to ensure that you’ve accounted for all circumstances – from a tsunami to a leaky roof – that could impact your technology infrastructure based on where your business operate.
“Two of the biggest problems I see are businesses that never write a plan to begin with and then those who write a plan but never review or test it,” Meikle said.
“A business continuity plan should be reviewed and updated every quarter,” Chisholm advised. “It is a living, breathing document. Not something that you can just put together once and stick in a file cabinet.”