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Be Business Ready

Net Access helps maintain critical systems in case of a disaster

In today’s ever changing business landscape, organizations are reliant on technology and critical business applications for successful operations. The Northeast has seen an increase in severe weather activity for the last fear years, including last year’s historic Hurricane Sandy. When storms cause widespread damage and power outages, they also jeopardize the businesses relying on utility providers to provide reliable services.

Armed with this knowledge, some organizations are choosing a proactive approach and are taking measures to make themselves less susceptible to interruptions of their critical IT systems, and to enable quicker restoration of technology services in the event of a disruption. Since any solution to reduce risk costs money, there are a few questions that business owners need to ask themselves to determine what makes sense from a business standpoint before implementation.

First, what are the critical systems and applications that your company relies on? Without a good understanding of the critical systems required for business operations, it is impossible to have a thorough disaster recovery plan. I have seen businesses that thought they would be ok because they backed up their central database, but lost email capability during a power outage that crippled their primary method of communicating with their clients and partners, simply because they did not identify email as a critical application.

Next, in the event of a service disruption, what are the financial impacts on your business? For example, if a business averages $5,000 in daily revenue and relies on an order processing application running in their office, if they lose power or Internet connectivity for 2 days, the financial impact could be $10,000 or more. Understanding how much your business stands to lose from lost revenue, productivity, or even reputation is vital because it gives you an idea of how much expense you can justify to spend on mitigating risks associated with critical applications.

Finally, based on the financial impacts to your business that you determined, how long can your business afford to be without access to your critical data and systems, and how much data can you afford to lose? This is important for determining your Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO). RPO basically means the amount of data you can afford to lose since your last data backup, while RTO means the amount of time you need a critical application restored by. For example, a business could determine that they could afford to lose 1 day of email and they need it restored within 8 hours.

Once you are armed with the answers to these questions, you will have a better idea of the critical applications and systems for your business, how much your business could be affected financially due to a disruption of these critical systems, and how long your business can sustain a potential outage. The next step is determining what potential solutions are available to mitigate these business risks. From evaluating your data backups to the redundancy of your critical infrastructure, there are many consultants and service providers that can provide guidance in these areas.

Backing up important data is critical for businesses. There has been a ton of research done on this topic, and statistics indicate that 60-70 percent of businesses that lose data will shut down within 6 months of the disaster.

There are two popular ways of backing up data, tape backup and disk backup. Tape backup is still used but companies are rapidly switching to disk backup because they don’t have to worry about tape rotations, potential data loss due to tape failures, and tape storage. Disk backup solutions back up data to hard drives, either locally, remotely via an Internet connection, or both. Depending on the backup solution, some are as easy as installing a backup client on any server or computer you wish to back up, and setting up a schedule (daily, weekly, etc).

The next item to look at would be reducing risks associated with downtime for the critical applications and infrastructure that your business relies on. There are two common ways to address these risks, one method is to put your critical infrastructure in a data center with redundant power and network connectivity, and the other is to utilize a cloud service for the underlying infrastructure itself, or in the form of a fully outsourced application delivered as a service.

If your business decides utilizing a data center makes sense, you will need to determine whether to build and implement your own data center or to utilize the services of a third party data center provider. Many businesses like the idea of having their own data center for maximum control. However there are typically more risks associated with this method than with outsourcing. For example, to protect against power outages your business could invest in a backup power generator. This would be able to provide emergency power to your office and the critical infrastructure located there, but is only a single redundancy measure that would require upkeep and maintenance.

By leveraging a data center (colocation) provider, businesses can host their critical applications in an environment designed to be much more robust than a typical office. Data center providers typically have multiple redundant generators, battery backup systems, redundant cooling, and multiple Internet connections that are combined to maintain close to 100 percent uptime. An additional benefit to using a data center provider is that they typically also provide options for 24 hour support in the event that your technical team needs assistance which can be very helpful during emergencies.

A different method to protecting your critical systems is to utilize a cloud computing provider. Cloud services are deployed in data centers, but can offer additional resiliency for businesses because they can utilize virtualization and clustering technologies to make the infrastructure highly available. For example, a physical database server located in a company’s server room could be replaced with a virtual cloud server in a clustered environment. Even if a physical server fails, the critical systems would instantly (and without disruption) move to a different server.

Another cloud option would be to utilize a software as a service (SaaS) solution. There are many examples of this method, from outsourcing your CRM service to Salesforce.com, or your email service to Microsoft Office 365. SaaS is a popular option because it enables businesses to simply utilize an application over the Internet but not have to worry about the underlying infrastructure. The downside to utilizing this method is that it does not offer the flexibility and customization capability of deploying your own infrastructure.

Finally, there are two other things to think about. First, analyze your Internet connectivity to determine what redundancy you have in place. If your organization is relying on a single Internet connection, what happens if the connection goes down during a storm? By implementing secondary (and even tertiary) Internet connections, you can ensure that your business can remain connected. Next, it is important to ensure that your employees have a place to work in the event that your office is unusable. This typically requires having technology in place such as VPN, high speed Internet, and ability to access remote systems from home or a disaster recovery seating provider that has offices or suites available for use during disasters.

Documentation and communication of these disaster recovery preparedness plans is also vital to make sure all employees know what to do in case of emergencies. By evaluating and implementing some of these options, your business can be prepared to continue operations in the event of a disaster or recover much quicker than without these preparations.

s back online during this challenging time. For more information pleasersey based data center colocation and cloud hosting provider. Net Access has been providing Internet related services since 1995 and maintained 100 eprcent uptime during Hurricane Sandy which enabled them to assist many local and regional businesses with getting their businesses back online during this challenging time. For more information p

 

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Meadowlands Technology Committee

Meadowlands Technology Committee

The Meadowlands Chamber Technology Committee consists of members with an interest or business expertise in technology. The committee mission is to act as a resource to members by sharing technology industry insight and by being available for questions, suggestions and concerns. The Tech Talk column in Meadowlands Magazine and the Tech Talk Video Series provide awareness on technology advances, solutions and tips.

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