2017 IT essentials: disaster recovery plan

When disaster strikes, organizations need to put their business continuity plans into action and recover their IT systems as quickly as possible. Failing to do so can mean serious financial and reputational repercussions. Despite this, investments in disaster recovery are set aside each year for high-tech IT investments, and every year companies and employees continue to suffer for it. Here are some reasons why disaster recovery is well worth your time, effort, and resources in 2017.

DR isn’t a huge investment
A common misconception about disaster recovery is that it’s a large, bank-breaking investment. Expensive secondary data centers, networks, and server maintenance usually come into mind when a business owner is confronted with the idea of business continuity. And while that may have been true in the past, establishing a strong disaster recovery plan today is as simple — and as cheap — as going to a cloud-based disaster recovery provider and paying for the data and services that your business needs. Subscription pricing models are actually incredibly low, meaning you can have minimal downtime while still having enough to invest in new tech.

Onsite backups just won’t cut it
Although you might feel secure with a manual backup server down the hall, it is still susceptible to local disasters and, ultimately, does very little in minimizing company downtime. When disaster recovery solutions are hosted in the cloud or in a virtualized server, restoring critical data and applications only take a few minutes.

Business disasters can be man-made, too
Even if your workplace is nowhere near frequent disaster zones, cyber attacks and negligent employees can leave the same impact on your business as any natural disaster can. Setting a weak password, clicking on a suspicious link, or connecting to unsecured channels is enough to shut down a 5-, 10-, or even 50-year-old business in mere minutes.

Sure, installing adequate network security is a critical strategy against malicious actors, but last year’s barrage of data breaches suggests that having a Plan B is a must. A suitable disaster recovery plan ensures that your data’s integrity is intact and your business can keep going, no matter the malware, worm, or denial-of-service attack.

Downtime will cost you
A business without a DR plan might come out unscathed after a brief power outage, but why risk the potential damages? Either way, downtime will cost your business. First, there’s the general loss of productivity. Every time your employees aren’t connected to the network, money goes down the drain. Then there’s the cost of corrupted company data, damaged hardware, and the inevitable customer backlash. Add all those variables together, and you end up with a business-crippling fee.

So, if you want 2017 to be the best year for your business, make the smart choice and proactively take part in creating your company’s business continuity plan. Your business will be in a better position financially with it than without it.

Keep your business safe, recover from any disaster, and contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

How to avoid your own Delta IT disaster

Earlier this year, thousands of Delta passengers worldwide were grounded due to a power outage that halted critical IT operations. This was a huge problem not only for the many delayed travelers, but also for the airline company itself. Within three days, the airline company cancelled around 2300 flights and paid over millions of dollars in downtime costs. But if you weren’t personally affected, why should you care? Well, without a business continuity in place, companies like yours can face the same repercussions. In order to prevent that, take heed of some poignant lessons companies can learn from Delta’s IT failings.

Strive for 100% redundancy
According to Delta’s chief information officer, a power failure caused the company’s data center to crash, grounding thousands of would-be passengers. Although power was restored six hours after the incident, critical systems and network equipment failed to switch to a secondary site, corrupting valuable data in the process. And while some systems failed over, other vital applications didn’t; this created bottlenecks, decreased revenue, and diminished customers’ confidence.

Delta’s case is a massive wakeup call not just for the airline industry but for every business — large and small. Companies must implement disaster recovery plans for their data centers, on-site technology, and Cloud applications to continue servicing customers while fixing the main issue with their primary systems. Companies also need to get rid of the false notion that redundancy plans to assure service continuity is restricted to larger corporations. DR and business continuity solutions are extremely affordable today, and a partnership with a provider can help you in more ways than one (more on this later).

Always test your backups

So although Delta had a plan to bring its business back to normalcy, the DR plan left a lot to be desired in practice. This begs the question as to whether the airline company is actually testing, reviewing, and reinforcing its vulnerabilities to different disasters.

The point is that even though your company may have a failover protocol in place, that protocol adds no value to your business unless it has been rigorously tried and tested. In order to avoid the same fate as Delta, make sure to find out whether your disaster recovery plan is capable of running mission-critical applications like email and customer service applications before — not after — downtime occurs.

Account for different types of vulnerability

In an interview with the Associated Press, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said, “We did not believe, by any means, that we had this type of vulnerability.” Indeed, it’s often hard to foresee what threats and vulnerabilities a natural disaster, power outage, or hacker can produce. But it’s not impossible.

By conducting a comprehensive audit of your data center security and disaster protocols, your business will be more aware and adept at minimizing the risk of potential disasters. This also means evaluating and preparing for disasters that are likely to happen to your business depending on its geographic location. Southern US, for instance, is prone to hurricanes and flooding.

Call for help

These lessons and strategies are all crucially important, but pulling off a DR and business continuity solution on your own may be difficult. For this reason, it’s critical to have a planned partnership with a managed services provider that can assess, plan, test and install the continuity solutions your business needs in order to minimize the impact and avoid encountering a Delta IT outage of your own.

To find out more about business continuity and guaranteeing complete IT redundancy, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Can Your Business Survive A Disaster?

Disasters. They do happen — it’s only a matter of ‘when’. While most businesses acknowledge it, surveys show that only one in four companies worldwide have adequate protection in the event of a major disruption. We’re not talking about insurance here, but a Disaster Recovery (DR) plan that could save you thousands of dollars in losses and worse, a business closure. If you haven’t heard much about what DR is, this post will help you gain some insight about what it is and how it can affect the future of your business.

As we all know, unpredictability is a fact of life. The aftermath of Tropical Storm Bill in Texas and recent floods in South Carolina are a grim and unfortunate lesson for many overconfident business owners who think their companies are spared from the likelihood of cataclysmic weather, technological malfunctions, or human actions. A 2014 survey by the IT Disaster Recovery Preparedness (DRP) Council reveals just how many companies worldwide are at risk: 73 percent of SMBs are failing in terms of disaster readiness. What does this mean? It means that 3 out of 4 companies aren’t prepared to handle emergencies and save their businesses from a worse-case scenario.

If it’s not clear and compelling enough for a business owner like yourself to consider putting a well-conceived Disaster Recovery (DR) plan into place, perhaps it’s time to give it some thought. Doing so can save you years of business loss. Here is some useful information about what DR is all about and how it can ensure your business’s survival in the wake of unforeseen circumstances.

What is Disaster Recovery (DR)?

Disaster recovery is a plan for restoring and accessing your data in the event of a disaster that destroys part or all of a business’s resources. It is a key component involving many aspects of business operations that requires this information to function. The job of a DR plan is to ensure that whatever happens, your vital data can be recovered and mission-critical applications will be brought back online in the shortest possible time.

What kind of disasters are likely to happen?

Business disasters can either be natural, technological, or man-made. Natural types of disasters include floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, landslides, tsunamis, and even a pest infestation. On the other hand, technological and man-made disasters involve hazardous material spills, infrastructural or power failure, nuclear power plant meltdown or blast, chemical threat and biological weapons, cyber attacks, explosions, or acts of terrorism and civil unrest.

Why does your business need DR?

Regardless of industry or size, when an unforeseen event takes place and causes day-to-day operations to come to a halt, a company will need to recover as quickly as possible to ensure you will continue providing services to clients and customers. Downtime is one of the biggest IT expenses that any business can face. Based on 2015 disaster recovery statistics, downtime that lasts for one hour can cost small companies as much as $8,000, mid-size organizations $74,000, and $700,000 for large enterprises.

For SMBs particularly, any extended loss of productivity can lead to reduced cash flow through late invoicing, lost orders, increased labor costs as staff work extra hours to recover from the downtime, missed delivery dates, and so on. If major business disruptions are not anticipated and addressed today, it’s very possible that these negative consequences resulting from an unexpected disaster can have long-term implications that affect a company for years. By having a Disaster Recovery plan in place, a company can save itself from multiple risks including out of budget expenses, reputation loss, data loss, and the negative impact on clients and customers.

How do I create a DR strategy for my business?

Creating, implementing and maintaining a total business recovery plan is time-consuming but extremely important to ensure your business’s survival. Many organizations don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to this process. If you would like to protect your company from unexpected disasters but need further guidance and information on how to get started, give us a call and our experts will be happy to discuss Disaster Recovery options and solutions with you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Keep the lights on and your business running

There is nothing worse than having a productive day at the office become undone due to a power outage. Losing power for even a single minute can have far reaching effects on your company’s operations as you need to make sure everything is running properly and all data is accounted for. While power outages can be a nuisance, with proper preparation you’ll have no trouble in persevering when the lights go off.

Power outages are one of the only disasters that can strike just about anywhere in the United States. If you are in Seattle chances are tropical storms are not going to be an issue and if you’re in Miami you aren’t going to fret over a blizzard, but losing power can occur anywhere, at any time and without warning.

A Department of Energy report noted that power outages cost American businesses nearly $150 billion in 2014 and added that increasing demand for energy coupled with an aging infrastructure could see the number of blackouts increase. While weather-related events are the most common cause of power outages in the U.S., it is far from the only thing that can disrupt energy service.

Since this is a problem that will continue to plague businesses, especially those ones that are unprepared, it’s important to be ready should a blackout strike. Here are a few things you should consider when it comes to power outages.

Power outages hurt in more ways than you think

The most notable issue a business faces when a power outage occurs is an inability to work. Employees often times sit around unable to do anything until the power is turned back on. Once the power does return, additional time is needed to safely turn everything back on and to check if all your files are still there.

There are also numerous indirect consequences that your business may face either during or after a power outage. These include a loss of revenue from potential sales, a decrease in customer satisfaction and a drop in your company’s reputation. The more your company is prepared for a power outage, the better continuity you will see and the less damage will be done. While it may be impossible to completely avoid issues caused by blackouts, you can minimize their impact.

Be ready in case of an outage

One of the biggest sources of frustration for employees during a blackout is losing files they had been working on. Autosave features do help prevent this but sometimes you’ll still lose that one important note or sentence you didn’t have the chance to save. Uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) are one way to buy your employees a little extra time should the power go out. You’re able to plug your computer into these devices and they will operate as a battery when the power goes out. The life of these power stations is anywhere from ten minutes to an hour for some models which should give you enough time to save your work and properly shutdown your computer.

If you want to stay in business during a power outage, a standby commercial generator can help. These normally run on propane or natural gas and immediately switch on as soon as your main power supply goes out. If you aren’t concerned about the lights but want to keep your employees productive, equipping them 4G enabled devices with Office 365 or Google Apps will let them continue to work on files that have been saved and stored on the cloud.

Always test your outage plans

Regardless of what your company’s plans are during a power outage, you will need to test them on a regular basis to ensure everything runs smoothly when the real thing does happen. If you utilize a UPS or standby generator, you will want to test these out every six months at the very least to make sure they function properly. If your business has special plans for what employees need to do during a power outage, you should run a practice drill on a yearly basis to ensure everyone is up to speed on their duties.

They key to business continuity is preparation. Let our team of experts help prepare your business for anything thrown its way in 2016 and beyond.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Scenarios that might require BCP action

Do you know when to invoke your Business Continuity Plan? A lot of business owners assume they know when it will be required, but the reality is that it can be hard to determine when a BCP is really necessary. It’s important you are able to assess what is taking place, and make an informed decision with regard to putting your continuity strategy into action. Here are few things you need to consider when it comes to invoking your plan.

When a disaster happens, your first thoughts will likely revolve around how it will affect your business and the services it provides. Depending on what occurs, you might be required to call your Business Continuity Plan (BCP) into action to ensure your company remains operational and that any Recovery Time Objectives are met.

Unfortunately, too many business owners fail to properly prepare themselves for taking this action, by viewing disasters as two-dimensional events. Realistically, a disaster has many possible outcomes and is not as black and white as you may think. For instance, think about how a flood can disrupt your company.

The logical conclusion for most business owners is to picture their office underwater. While that is one possibility, several others may also exist that could require you to consider implementing your BCP. A flood may not disturb your office, but what if it strikes an off-site storage facility where you keep digital or paper data? This is likely to have just as great an impact on your business, and necessitate your BCP coming into action.

Here we’ll take a look at a few other disasters that can happen, and which factors you need to consider before implementing your BCP.

Fire

If a fire takes place at your business, invoking your BCP is a fairly obvious decision. However, what do you do if a fire occurs in the same building as your office, or next door to you? It can be a problematic situation as you may not know what, if any, damage has occurred. Smoke travels fast and can leave behind soot, which may render your servers inoperable or highly unstable. There may be health issues at play as well, and sometimes it is not be feasible to have your employees working in the office in the immediate aftermath of smoke damage.

Before invoking your BCP in this situation, you will want to speak with fire crews on the scene about when they will let you back into your office and what kind of damage has been done. This should give you the necessary information on how to proceed, and enable you to decide whether your BCP needs to be put into action.

Civil unrest

It can be hard to gauge what to expect in times of civil unrest. We have witnessed large protests that remained peaceful, but we have also seen ones that have become unruly and destructive. Several business owners had to halt or significantly reduce services in places like Missouri and Baltimore because of the latter. Only time will tell if they are able to recover, or end up having to shut their doors for good.

Due to the volatility of these events, it is impossible to fully prepare yourself, since you can never completely know how the situation will pan out. Instead make sure you and your staff are prepared to invoke your BCP should the situation deteriorate. Even if something were to happen at your premises, if you’re diligent and paying attention you should be able to act quickly and prevent a large-scale service disruption.

Security threats

Most people don’t put things like viruses and security breaches in the realm of disasters, and that in and of itself can be disastrous. Let’s use one of the fastest growing security threats to small businesses, ransomware, as an example. It could be downloaded to your network by a deceptive email and opened by an employee. When ransomware makes it way onto your network, it will encrypt or block all access to your data until you pay a sum of money.

Because ransomware can appear suddenly, often business owners get flustered and either pay the ransom or suffer a long period of downtime trying to figure out how to fix the problem. Either way, money is lost. If ransomware or any other security breach occurs, it’s important to quickly analyze the situation and determine whether you need to invoke your BCP, which should allow you to avoid both downtime and ransom payments.

It’s important to remember that a disaster can appear in many different ways, shapes and forms. If you need help on determining when it is appropriate to initiate your BCP, or have any other questions about how a BCP would help your business, give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.