By: Dan Bremner
“Worst Case Scenario” thinking can help your business be prepared. No one likes to think about it, but what would you do if your office burned down, or flooded, or if thieves walked off with everything in your server closet? More to the point, would your business be able to survive?
Insurance is great, and hopefully you have good coverage that will get you a check right away to replace what was lost. (You do, right?) But while it’s easy to buy new equipment and furniture, there’s no store in the world you can go into and buy back the business information that was on those servers.
From an Information Technology perspective, the top priority for any Disaster Recovery (DR) plan is to ensure that critical business information is protected. Right below that on the list is ensuring that the business data you’ve protected, and the systems required to make use of that data, are available for use by the people who will be carrying on the critical functions of the business.
There is a lot that goes into a Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity plan, including threat analysis, Recovery Point Objectives (RPO) and Recovery Time Objectives (RTO), as well as succession planning (having people that can step in if key employees are unavailable). It’s beyond the scope of this article to go in depth into DR/BC planning. However, I want to highlight a few technologies and practices that help make DR more affordable for smaller organizations.
- Cloud-based data backup. For many customers, we have deployed a cloud backup solution that copies your server’s data files to a cloud server, and continuously sends updates as files are changes, while also maintaining older versions of the changed files. We have been advocating a combination of on-premise backup and in-the-cloud backup for a while now, as both have their advantages. For DR purposes, an event that takes out your office is unlikely to affect a remote data center, so cloud backup is an excellent fail-safe for your data.
- Virtualization and Replication. This topic could be the subject of its own article (in fact, it was a few months back). Replicating a virtual server means that an exact copy of your server is being sent, in near real time, to another location, where it can be quickly placed into service if your primary server goes down. While other vendors have had replication options for virtual machines, Microsoft, with Hyper-V, has made replication an included feature, and has made it much more affordable to replicate servers to a secondary location. Just this month, they went one step further and enabled Hyper-V replication and recovery to their Azure cloud service (http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/site-recovery). Now a business that wants to replicate a few servers doesn’t have to buy additional hardware or software, or pay for colocation of hardware in a remote data center. Of course there is an ongoing cost, but no up-front purchase is required.
- Data center colocation. An increasing number of companies are moving their servers out of their offices and into a secure data center. This can increase security, and reduce operating costs such as cooling and power, as well as real estate requirements in the office. From a DR perspective, servers in a data center are more physically secure from theft, fire, flood, and they are usually protected from power and Internet outages by multiple levels of redundancy.
- Cloud services. It bears mentioning that fires, floods, or equipment theft in your office won’t affect things like Office 365, Google Apps, Salesforce, or Quickbooks Online. As long as you can connect to the Internet, you can still use those platforms, so if you use a cloud service for email, your email will continue to function even if your office location is offline. That’s not the only reason to move to cloud applications, but it is one benefit.
While no one ever wants the worst to happen, and no one thinks it will happen to them, going through some “what if” thinking and planning for it can make the difference between business survival and business failure. Each company is unique when it comes to what systems or data are most important. What is indispensable to one company, another may be able to survive without for days or weeks. When it comes to the IT portion of your plan, we can help you navigate the many options and together create a plan that is suited for the unique requirements of your business.