We can all agree that winter is almost here, given the weather in the UK this last week or so. Hats and gloves were out. I even had to listen to my daughter complain she was cold on the way to the Christmas Market in Birmingham. Obviously, she was not prepared for the cold, wearing a coat designed for spring! Just goes to show that planning, even with instruction, is not always adhered to.
More foresight than goes into my daughters personal winter planning should be applied to your organisations Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery, BCDR. Business Continuity is an all-encompassing concept that should address everything. Business operations, to high-level risk management, security and a whole lot more. Regardless of the forecasts for this winter, being prepared for bad weather is always better than being, well, left out in the cold.
Failure of critical systems is almost inevitable in a technology driven world. I say almost, as virtually everything can be mitigated, with a well thought out plan executed properly. External factors, such as weather, are obviously uncontrollable. The outcomes are not out of your control. It is important to approach Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery as a proactive rather than a reactive incidence. Take a minute to run your business resiliency plan through a review process. Failing that, at the very least, have a plan!
Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail
To ensure any Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery plan is appropriate, it’s critical to make regular updates to you overall plan as regulations and business needs change. Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery strategies need to be updated every time there is a change in IT structure. New systems brought online, old systems deprecated, new users, key personnel leaving. There is no doubt, Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery is a continuous process. Seriously, I’m someone who has a generator in my garage so I can run my lights, my boiler pump, my fridge and my router. I am not a caveman. Sitting in the dark with candles is not romantic. Experiencing ‘blitz’ conditions is not exciting.
Start with the right ‘stuff’
Obviously, your strategy should at least include a hosting or service partner that can act as a second location for your IT operations. I don’t mean someone with lots of desks, filled with those awful tiny little computers running Windows XP and a telephone with a circular dial on it. Technology has actually progressed so much I would hope a large proportion of your operational IT is flexible. For example, the office is inaccessible because we’ve had that 3cm of snow. No problem, everyone in the contact centre can work from home through a browser to a Desktop as a Service (DaaS) application. All their applications, call queues and Telephony is in the data centre.
Ah, but perhaps your data centre is unavailable because an especially large tree fell on the power systems. Work with me here. Once again, no problem. Your services, applications and your data are all synchronised securely to a third party with Virtual Machines pre-configured. All for the cost of a handful of Starbucks per day. You really can enable critical core infrastructure in minutes. Your IT partners should be able to support your range of platforms, operating systems and provide your most important capabilities. The phone rings, it gets answered. An email arrives, it gets dealt with. Someone wants to buy something, wow, they can.
Audit those applications
Oh dear, sadly the previous point requires that your existing circumstances can actually take full advantage of business resilience? Okay, why not examine your applications and requirements thoroughly? Are they able to behave flexibly? If not, what scope of work is required to re-architect them to do so? By auditing your needs, you can safeguard against a failure in the event of a disturbance. I’m of the belief that these can almost always be done at least cost effectively, if not always painlessly.
Benchmark what you have now
There is no easy way of saying this, it really is imperative that you undertake complete testing of your infrastructure, processes, people and all their dependencies. How long does it actually take to recover from a disaster? What is the nature of the disaster? For example, do you have servers and storage devices that are replicated, respond quickly, can be accessed easily and completely secure? What hurdles do you encounter in your simple day-to-day? What steps do you need to take to eliminate them? If you understand what your baseline performance is, you can better track and monitor any changes in overall operations required.
Partner with experts
This to me is the most obvious of all of the elements of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery. Primarily due to the fact that Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery is complex, time consuming, expensive and completely unforgiving should you get it wrong if you go it alone. Make sure you work with experts, or at the very least don’t work with people who are unable to grasp the importance of getting it as close to right as is humanly possible. When the pressure is on, you want smart options and insights and it is really important to work with a team that has both experience and capability in these areas.
Don’t send your business out dressed for a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery spring this winter. If you have any questions, or would like to speak to someone regarding Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery, please get in touch.