What does disaster recovery mean in 2016?

The latest research from IDC tells a frightening story. The average cost of IT downtime for the Fortune 1000 in 2015 was between $1.25 and $2.5 billion! That equates to an average hourly cost for critical infrastructure failure of $100,000 per hour.

Imagine how businesses would be affected if the electric supply routinely failed. As it is, the electric grid had in the past decade reached new levels of reliability to the point where any prolonged power cut is major international news. This is because we all depend on electricity for our lives to function. In 2016 – we all depend on our IT for our lives to function!

It’s not enough anymore for the lights to stay on. Businesses large and small need their IT systems functional and available in order to carry on business. Even the smallest businesses suffer a massive drop in revenue due to IT failures where perhaps their point-of-sale stops working, or their ability to process electronic payments is affected.

How reliable is my IT?

A survey a few years ago by Ponemon found that 91% of respondents had suffered an unplanned outage of their datacentre just in the previous 24 months. These figures are pretty indicative of most of our experiences. Over half of use will see some form of IT downtime each year.

Think about it. How reliable is your latest smart-phone compared to your first cell phone? How reliable was that first cell-phone compared to the old rotary dial land-line you had as a child?

Sure the technology is getting better every day, but it’s also getting more complex. Failures are more likely in every aspect of our lives, and yet our ability to function without the IT is dropping by the day. In the extremely rare occurrence that your old rotary dial phone did fail, it probably didn’t matter. Today’s millennials would go without food before they’d give up WiFi or their smart devices!

When continuity is not the same as recovery

Many businesses have what they feel are solid and tested disaster recovery plans. They will for example ensure that they can recover all their critical data within 24 hours and ensure that there are two copies stored at two different sites for redundancy. What these plans fail to take into account however is that the recovery time depends on your people actually getting access to the data!

What if there is a natural disaster, we’ve already seen a huge increase in the prevalence of floods which can totally stop our transportation networks in the UK and we’re told global warming will only make them more frequent. You see the importance of business continuity is that your business can continue during the disaster. If your primary IT systems were lost, and you are not able to even begin recovery, you’re down. If your competitors are still up, guess where your customers are going!

Cloud DR or DR for the Cloud?

Most IT managers today miss the point when they look at how the cloud can assist with business continuity. The real answer is actually to use the cloud for primary services, and then provide your own IT as a backup. Every cloud provider who advertises DRaaS can do this. It’s the same technology after-all, just used in reverse. They promote DRaaS because it’s what customers ask for, when in truth the difference of where the primary system resides makes all the difference.

Considering a businesses’ full continuity will also lead to other new cloud capabilities that are best done with the help of a managed services provider, such as the availability of manged virtual desktops for users to login to should their corporate PC’s or laptops be unavailable.

If you have multiple offices, consider SD-WAN as another powerful technology that can help you quickly recover your inter-office networking over alternate carriers or alternate routes, even over 4G wireless if need be. The Cloud truly is an amazingly powerful tool for business continuity, when used correctly.

Business Continuity is a cycle, not a task

It’s important to understand that business continuity planning is something which is never “done”. BCP must become part of a company’s culture, and form an on-going lifecycle of risk assessment, business analysis, strategy planning, and testing. The best managed service providers will encourage this, it’s one of the things to look for. Check that your service provider is insisting on doing a planning exercise with you. Check that they are offering live testing of the plan to verify that everything works under controlled circumstances before you need it for real.

Working with a service provider, and moving as much of the most critical primary systems to the cloud is the best way to achieve reliability. Existing IT assets can then be repurposed into a backup or DR role, extending their lifespan considerably while reducing the costs that would otherwise be incurred by providing multi-cloud DR.

Careful planning together with one primary managed service provider gives you peace of mind that there is an outside team who hopefully will not be affected by the same disaster as your firm where you can call and get help to ensure the availability of critical systems is maintained and your staff are able to do their jobs and service customers. Service Level Agreements and a provider’s track record in meeting or exceeding them is your best route to business continuity.

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