With the summer months looming, you’re probably day dreaming about white sandy beaches or a mountain escape. No matter where your destination may be, sunscreen is a must if you want to protect yourself from the summer sun, and reduce your chances of being burned.
Like forgetting sunscreen, forgetting key components of an organization’s business continuity (BC)/disaster recovery (DR) plan can have an “ugly” aftermath. Overlooking even one area in your plan can destabilize your entire network and result in significant losses in revenue and productivity.
This time of year doesn’t always mean sunny skies though. Severe thunderstorms, flooding and other weather disruptions are ubiquitous during the summer months. Whatever the cause of a major network disruption, don’t sit back and wait for the “storm” to hit. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) must have a more comprehensive plan in place than the typical mental check list often used when packing for a vacation. A well-managed and tested BC/DR plan will help prevent costly downtime and reduce inconvenience to workers.
Whether you are just getting started or are upgrading an outdated plan, running a business impact analysis (BIA) can help define key BC/DR needs and ensure your organization is covered. A trusted technology partner can provide assistance, running the analysis and delivering an objective assessment of what your organization needs to weather a disruption. A BIA is different for every organization but can best be described as a breakdown of the potential risks and vulnerabilities an organization faces, providing direction for minimizing and mitigating the risks before they become a real problem. More so, it identifies the components of an organization’s infrastructure that have the greatest business impact – making it clear which components require the greatest attention and budget allocation.
Inviting Management Along
As with any new technology implementation, it is important to involve business stakeholders from the start. Involving stakeholders in the BC/DR planning process ensures a better understanding of business priorities, as well as the full repercussions of downtime. A BIA eases this process, providing tangible figures on what an outage or disruption may cost in lost revenue, productivity, equipment and so on. This information is invaluable when selling non-IT management on a new or increased investment in BC/DR measures.
Management typically cites purchase and transition costs as the main deterrent to adopting or adding a new technology, which explains why organizations are hesitant to develop and implement BC/DR plans. There are always other more immediate needs competing for the time and budget a BC/DR plan may claim. This is where the BIA’s findings are crucial. Through a third-party BIA from a technology partner, the IT department can help management identify the costs of poor or no planning, while determining the most vulnerable areas of their network. When questions and/or doubts arise, the BIA will provide answers and hard numbers that can demonstrate the necessity of a BC/DR plan.
We’ve Agreed on a Destination, but What Next?
The BIA has identified your organizational needs and you’ve secured management’s approval on a BC/DR plan. You are ready to go, but aren’t sure of next steps. The stages for implementation should align with an organization’s unique situation. Fortunately, there are many solid options to consider that will help get your organization to where it needs to be:
Proactively protect your data: Organizations should frequently back up data to ensure data integrity and that applications are still accessible in an emergency situation. Organizations should also store multiple copies of data off-site at a remote location. To save money, something as simple as using more disk-based storage or the cloud can cut costs by requiring less tape and, therefore, requiring less storage space in the long term
Invest in the cloud: As cloud computing becomes more accessible, more SMBs are able to implement cloud solutions, as well as software as a service (SaaS) and hosted managed services (HMS). SMBs can access these options without the complexity and costs associated with buying new equipment, the leasing/purchasing and upkeep of an additional facility or the IT staff necessary to keep everything up and running. One major benefit that SMBs and decision makers are discovering is the “out of sight, out of mind” nature of cloud and HMS. By working with a technology partner, SMBs can map out a service level agreement (SLA) that meets the requirements identified by the BIA, and then have that partner assume the contractual risk of keeping the systems current, secure, tested and reliable
Review co-location options: For SMBs that desire to keep some things in-house, many technology partners offer co-location facilities where space is available without the commitment or cost associated with construction or purchase. Facilities are available to meet the unique and varying demands of each organization, so an SMB can determine the most appropriate space for its requirements
Mobilize your workforce: According to CDW’s Business Continuity Straw Poll Report, the top cause of business disruptions in the past year was loss of power. From hurricanes to heavy snow, a serious storm can cause many organizations to lose access to telecommunications equipment for days. Alternative communication resources, such as wireless and satellite phones, should be included in most BC/DR plans. SMBs should also build increased workforce mobility into their plans. Start by training and equipping employees to telework, even if they do not do so on a regular basis. It is also crucial to create a telecommunications back-up plan to deliver the additional bandwidth required in case a significant portion of employees are forced to work remotely during a network interruption
Consider power needs: Redundant power and cooling are also crucial aspects of any BC/DR plan. At the very least, organizations should add uninterrupted power supplies (UPSs) to keep the most essential applications running long enough to enable a smooth shutdown, free of data loss. SMBs expecting growth should factor expansion into planning and ensure critical UPS units will be able to support increasing power needs. In addition, SMBs should support cooling systems with backup generators. Temperature spikes in an uncooled data center can cause unplanned interruptions when operations are most critical.
Every disaster scenario is unique and there is no single BC/DR solution that will work for every business. Built-to-fit solutions are readily available, and SMBs shouldn’t hesitate to consult their trusted technology partners or industry counterparts to ensure their plan is sound. Crisis planning is a cross-functional process meant to prepare an organization in the case of an emergency. Whether you are an SMB that is just getting started, or you have had a BC/DR plan in place for years, it is crucial to test and update your crisis plan regularly. Don’t wait until you get burned to put on the sunscreen – re-evaluate your plan now, and don’t let a mishap put a damper on your summer vacation.
CDW is a leading provider of technology solutions for business, government, education and healthcare. Ranked No. 38 on Forbes’ list of America’s Largest Private Companies, CDW features dedicated account managers who help customers choose the right technology products and services to meet their needs. The company’s solution architects offer expertise in designing customized solutions, while its advanced technology engineers assist customers with the implementation and long-term management of those solutions. Areas of focus include software, network communications, notebooks/mobile devices, data storage, video monitors, desktops, printers and solutions such as virtualization, collaboration, security, mobility, data center optimization and cloud computing. CDW was founded in 1984 and employs more than 6,200 coworkers. In 2010, the company generated sales of $8.8 billion. For more information, visit CDW.com.