How can businesses ensure they continue to function when systems fail or disaster strikes? Paul Weeden, Managing Director of Foration, discusses the continuity challenges that businesses face today.
Business continuity is much more than just backup and disaster recovery, it is ensuring your business is constantly connected no matter what happens.
Business continuity has often been thought of as recovery in the event of a disaster such as a power failure, fire or act of God. In reality these are relatively rare occurrences, and whilst you need to ensure you have a tested business continuity plan in place, an Internet connection ‘going down’, a server failing, accidental / malicious deletion of data, or service provider outage is a far more likely, and in some cases more frequent, occurrence.
Often businesses think moving their services to the Cloud removes these risks entirely. But what happens if that service provider has an outage? How will you function? What happens if your office’s Internet connection ‘goes down’?
I should point out that Cloud based service providers are significantly more reliable than single server environments. However, businesses do need to be aware that they occasionally do have problems and have plans in place to respond accordingly.
The cost of downtime
Regardless of the cause of the outage or disaster, the longer it lasts or the more frequently it occurs, the greater the cost to your business.
Research suggests that in the UK, downtime costs organisations a huge £2billion per year in lost revenue.
The cost of lost productivity is relatively small when compared to reputational damage, loss of business, penalties for breach of contract, or fines levied by regulators for data loss.
All businesses, regardless of size or industry sector, need to have a plan in place to identify what they need to do in both disaster and outage scenarios.
For small, 100% Cloud based businesses who suffer an Internet connection failure, the plan could be as simple as taking your iPad / laptop to a coffee shop and working from there for the afternoon. But, what do you do if your Cloud email provider experiences an outage? How could you function?
For bigger businesses or for those with servers in-house, if your Internet connection goes down you can’t send the entire company to a coffee shop! Even if you could, how would your staff access the in-house servers? What would happen if an internal system failed? How quickly could you get it up and running?
To protect against the range of scenarios your business could face, you need to take a holistic approach to continuity planning.
The recovery dilemma
Even if your business does have a plan and basic backup in place, it is likely that you’ll be faced with, what we call, the recovery dilemma.
When an outage occurs it isn’t possible to know immediately how long it will take to fix. So you are then faced with a difficult decision:
- Do you wait and bear the costs of lost productivity and move to damage limitation mode with your clients?
- Do you invoke your business continuity plan, incurring the costs and disruption associated with that, whilst all the time knowing that by the time the plan is completely invoked, the issue could have been fixed?
Wouldn’t it be good if you weren’t faced with this decision in the first place? That your systems had sufficient redundancy to cope with a component failure? That should your email system / Internet connection ‘go down’, a backup system was in place to take over automatically and your team were none the wiser? Or if a server did fail that it could be restored to the state it was in 5 minutes ago at the touch of a button?
With the right approach and supporting technology, you can avoid the recovery dilemma and ensure your business is constantly connected regardless of the severity of issue or disaster.
Achieving this superior level of connectivity requires the use of services that deliver 100% email uptime (contractually guaranteed); backup systems which take snapshots of your whole server environment as frequently as every 5 minutes which are then replicated offsite; and Internet connections which automatically switch to a secondary connection if the primary connection fails.
Historically, this level of protection has been prohibitively expensive for most organisations. For those organisations which could afford it, they would spend significant amounts of time and money supporting, testing and maintaining these systems. Now, by leveraging industry leading, proven technologies with integration and deployment expertise, businesses even with modest budgets can benefit from this level of protection.