Was your disaster recovery plan ready for a pandemic?
Image credit: Romolo Tavani/Dreamstime
Covid-19 has forced companies to realise that being prepared for even the most unlikely situation can no longer be treated as a reassuring but optional part of business planning.
When the Covid-19 pandemic first hit early in 2020, we all felt a bit lost to say the least. Without understanding much about what was going on, companies moved business operations from on-premises to at-home and did the best they could to adapt and resume activities as quickly as possible. A few were forced to halt, whilst the ones still standing focused on taking steps to ensure that they were able to keep the wheels turning.
From what I could observe, companies that did not have their digital transformation processes in place, or a solid contingency strategy, suffered considerably compared to those who did. In fact, a study conducted by Osterman Research shows that fewer than one in five organisations were “very well prepared” for the Covid-19 crisis with regards to having their employees and contractors suddenly forced to work from home. The research links the unpreparedness to IT and security decision-makers not having the strategic foresight and financial bandwidth to accommodate capabilities to deal with extraordinary events.
Of course, no chief executive in their right mind would wish for an unexpected catastrophe to happen. But, equally, you wouldn’t want to be in a position where your company fails to plan for the worst, ultimately resulting in business strategies going up in smoke. That’s where disaster recovery comes into play.
In simple terms, disaster recovery (DR) is an emergency plan. It outlines all the processes and measures a company will need to take action on in the event that operations are completely disrupted by an unforeseen event, such as fires, floodings, cyberattacks or – well – pandemics.
Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS), on the other hand, is one of the many steps an effective DR plan could include. It’s a software-defined solution based on the cloud that synchronises an organisation’s entire website and applications from one location to a secondary data centre. When and if required, the replicated environment is manually activated and virtual machines (VMs) spun up to enable the failover, using the resources (RAM/CPU) on demand. As a result, not only are the company’s critical data and business infrastructure completely protected from being wiped out, but businesses are able to resume operations in a matter of minutes.
The pandemic has forced most businesses to adopt remote working, pushing them over the technology tipping point and leaving them more dependent on their online infrastructure than ever before. As a result, according to a recent McKinsey Global Survey of executives, in just a few months, the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies by three or four years. Most likely, many of these changes will be here for the foreseeable future.
Naturally, with companies relying more and more on IT, the greater the responsibility is to protect it. But the rapid acceleration of digital transformation has created new challenges for businesses and seems to have left organisations more vulnerable as they adapt to an operating model in which working from home has become the ‘new normal’. The reputational, operational, legal and compliance implications could be considerable if cyber-security risks are neglected, and yet many businesses fail to prepare for an IT disaster, even when a simple DRaaS solution could have saved them.
Take retail shops for instance. Consumers have moved dramatically towards online shopping, resulting in a rapid shift towards interacting with customers through digital channels. In an ‘always-on’ world, there is no break for e-commerce. If their physical stores are closed due to lockdown, and their website goes down, visitors simply won’t wait. An outage can be extremely detrimental to the business image, not to mention the economic damage, as a single minute can cost $5,600, which extrapolates to well over $300K per hour according to Gartner. An effective way to avoid that or any other type of disaster scenario is by having a DRaaS solution in place prior to the event. Otherwise, you are leaving the door wide open for your competitors to take your place.
While companies have understood the need and benefits of the cloud, they're still struggling to understand the added benefit of disaster recovery to ensure their data is safe no matter the potential next natural or man-made disaster. If the pre-coronavirus normal was to think of DR as a dispensable – ostentatious, even – service, today it’s undeniable how crucial it is to be prepared to continue operations as usual.
It shouldn’t be seen as a ‘luxury’ add-on service solely for larger companies, but a fundamental part of every business’s IT strategy. The true value of data and IT systems is often only apparent when a disaster occurs, which is why businesses should always prepare for the unexpected. To stay competitive in this new business and economic environment requires new strategies and practices. DRaaS is a critical component of the business, not just a source of cost efficiencies.
Jon Lucas is co-director of Hyve Managed Hosting.
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