How prepared is your organization to deal with the impacts of natural disasters, pandemics, or other unforeseen events? If you’re like most companies, last year demonstrated the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of your business continuity planning. According to Robert Latham, the former Executive Director of FEMA in Mississippi (United State), around 35% of small businesses will never recover from a natural disaster.
Did your business model focus on IT infrastructure that provided your business operations with the resilience to empower your people during disruptions to employees normal working environment?
You likely discovered there is room for improvement. We’ll look at some of the technology the business world can implement to enhance their real time decision making and operations while in crisis management mode. We’ll start by discussing the importance of a business continuity plan then discuss IT practices companies from small businesses to enterprises can use to enhance organizations operations including:
- Cloud Computing
- IT Infrastructure Management
- Automation of Processes
- Securing Data and Information Systems
Business Continuity Plan
Before I discuss the technology that can help with business continuity, business continuity plans are critical to organizations’ risk management during disaster recovery(DR). The plans provide a vision of how the company will operate when people are stressed during the crisis. Business continuity management may be a small role in one person’s job at a smaller business, while enterprises may have business continuity teams whose sole focus is developing and implementing the disaster recovery plan.
Starting with a business impact analysis can be helpful. There’s no point in spending a lot of time planning for a volcanic eruption if there are no volcanoes near organization operations. The impacts of the disruptions should drive how many details are focused on a specific type of event. Once the business impact analysis is performed you can start with the business continuity planning and recovery plans.
Your business continuity plan should include:
- Disaster recovery plans for each type of event,
- Plan owners who will be responsible for managing employees working on the DR,
- People responsible for field tasks that require human intervention,
- Defined processes to implement the business continuity plan,
- Lists of service providers with their contact information,
- Work area recovery sites in case the building or area has to be abandoned,
- Backup infrastructure such as generators or satellite backup of communication services,
- Lists of opportunities to help society recover quicker,
- A communication plan to communicate with employees, customers, and any third party involved. Social media may be a good way of communicating because of mark safe capabilities.
- Technology deficiencies to address to increase business resiliency including aspects such as recovery point objective (RPO), recovery time objective (RTO), auto failovers, IT infrastructure, email continuity, and ensuring data is secure on mobile devices.
While interviewing Robert, he mentioned that both governments and companies have the most difficulty planning for worst case scenarios because we tend to avoid thinking about scenarios that overwhelm us. To make it easier to deal with, you can start with a fictitious scenario like a zombie apocalypse to get people comfortable planning for uncomfortable scenarios.
There is software that is specifically focused on assisting in organizational continuity, such as Bold Planning which helps you manage the planning, training, and deployment during disaster scenarios.
Business Continuity News
To get the latest info on business continuity research check out the Gartner Inc Top Insights page. It has a ton of information about developments impacting the business environment. Continuity management would be included in the risk category.
Now that we’ve discussed things organizations should include in impact analysis and business continuity plans, lets discuss how technology can help your business perform with resilience during a challenging business environment.
Cloud Computing Services
Cloud computing services have made business continuity easier for companies all over the world. Companies need technologies and processes that help remote employees in any field access business information, their business email address, and systems to perform mission-critical tasks securely from laptops and mobile devices. There are a variety of factors to consider when looking for cloud services to assist in your business continuity including:
- location of data center,
- Data Encryption,
- Compatibility with legacy information systems,
- number of devices or users who will be accessing information,
- ease of creating new processes
- RTO, the amount of time you can have a disruption without it severely harming company sustainability
- and more.
If you aren’t already hosting data, applications, and infrastructure in the cloud, check out our blog 3 Tips for Migrating to Azure.
IT Infrastructure Management- Minimize Downtime with Redundancy
IT infrastructure management is involved with providing the necessary resources for employees and customers to interact with the company. The primary consideration should be that the technology is setup to reduce downtime.
There are two measures of downtime that you should try to reduce to keep your technology and data running smoothly. Recovery point objective(RPO) and recovery time objective(RTO). The RPO is the threshold which the company considers the technology downtime unacceptable. There will be a loss of data during this time, but it is not so bad that it creates real challenges to the business. If the downtime exceeds the RTO, the technology has been down for so long that things start to get messy. It means the loss of data exceeds what can be easily dealt with. This could lead to lots of customer complaints on social media, loss of revenue, and challenges business continuity. During the pandemic this has displayed itself in the form of many small businesses closing down of government stay at home orders. It is essential that businesses of all sizes have the technology to avoid exceeding the RTO.
Redundancy is the best solution to form a preventative measure for disaster recovery. The approach to redundancy will take a different form depending on whether you use on-premises servers or Infrastructure-as-a -service (IAAS) solutions.
When your on premises servers go down during a crisis, there’s a good chance that backup servers on premises will also be destroyed. To avoid complete loss of your technology resources, it is critical to have a backup server in the cloud. Make sure the data center isn’t in an area that would be impacted by the same localized event though.
If your primary tech stack is an infrastructure as a service provider, you have two options for redundancy, multiple data centers from the same provider or use two different providers. An analysis of the best approach will need to be performed based on your current tech stack to form a solution that works best for your enterprise. When using two different providers, make sure that the infrastructure is far enough apart, that both aren’t impacted by a disaster as that would risk your business continuity plan.
Automation of Processes
There are two processes that need to be in place for sufficient risk management regarding business continuity: Routine Cloud Backup and automatically transitioning to your backup upon failure of your primary servers.
Routing cloud backup is crucial to prevent the loss of data should a server fail. Imagine if your server fails and you have to restart the company from scratch. That would be a catastrophic failure and would put many companies out of business. How often you need to backup depends on the amount of data that is created over a period of time. For software that stays stagnant, it can be each time you update it, for data like transactions, you might want to do it hourly or daily. This is crucial for business continuity. Make sure it’s automated.
To form a business continuity plan that protects your business operations, you need to have IT auto failovers in place. These are automatic transitions to backup systems when your primary servers are down. If using in-house servers, it is easiest to do this by having cloud servers as backup. If your IT is in the cloud, you can either have a second data center by the same provider as a backup. Alternatively, using another cloud provider also works.
Securing Data and Information Systems
IT best practices include the encryption of sensitive information at rest and in transit. During a time when a continuity plan is in effect this is even more crucial. After disasters, physical equipment may be accessible to people who are not normally authorized to access it.
In addition, operations are more likely to be performed remotely during a crisis. This requires encrypting information in transit so that the company ensures the privacy standards necessary to protect both corporate and client assets.
We’ve discussed many of the ways technology can help during disaster recovery, but I think it is important to mention one more thing. Managing logistics is a defining aspect of whether a response is effective or a failure. This may require a team of people across divisions, companies, and government to all be on the same page.
You should make it a point to have developed relationships with the organizations you will be collaborating with. This will make any decision making easier because you will know exactly who to contact with each entity. With these relationships, you can already have contracts in place to enact the plan quicker. These relationships will also provide you with the opportunity to contribute to your community in a time of need, which creates an emotional attachment to your company that can help it down the road.
In conclusion, having the vision to implement technology for continuity management can help tremendously during disaster recovery. We explored some of the benefits of using technology including:
Click on any of the links above to get more information on how Flying Donkey IT can help you develop processes that will prevent disruptions during trying times. If you’d like a free consultation, reach out to us.
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