Disaster Recovery Planning.
As the name suggests disaster recovery planning is creating a plan for your business in the event of a major incident. In the last week, we have seen 2 major incidents in the technology sector.
In the early hours on the 10th March, a fire broke out at one of the OVHcloud data centres in Strasburg France which have destroyed all of the servers inside the SBG2 data centre and have done an unknown amount of damage to the SBG1 data centre. Thankfully no one was injured during the incident, however, the loss of data is potentially huge. Customers of OVHcloud were quickly warned to initiate their disaster recovery plans. Those that had them were able to continue business fairly quickly, however, those that didn’t have a plan now face huge problems. OVHcloud has said they will be unable to recover the vast majority of the data affected.
To put this into a little perspective, 3.6 million websites were hosted within the affected data centre. Including niche government websites for France, Britain, Poland and the Ivory Coast.
The second incident came from Microsoft. On the 15th of March, they released an update to their authentication servers, which almost immediately took them offline. Customers were unable to use the vast majority of Microsoft products and services until the update was rolled back and service was restored. While this might not seem anywhere near as drastic as the OVH fire, the Microsoft outage affected a lot more businesses all over the world who rely on Microsoft products for conducting their business.
Both incidents highlight the need to have an effective plan in the event you are unable to do “business as usual”.
Everyone in business needs to have some sort of disaster recovery plan. A one-person business in a home office is just as important as an office full of staff. The only difference will be the level of detail and spread of responsibility.
The key elements of a simple disaster recovery plan are:
Firstly, the safety of your staff and customers should be at the forefront of anything you do. It is wise to appoint key people within each department to co-ordinate your staff during the recovery process. Smaller businesses may not have enough staff to warrant this, however, the important point is to ensure there is contact between all staff to let them know what is going on.
Regular backups are a key point in the disaster recovery process. Without backups of your data, how long could your business survive? Would you know who you owe money to and who owes you money? Sadly this step is most often overlooked and ignored by those who think it will never happen to them. The reality is that it's not just about you! Your customers are relying on you to provide a product or service, are they likely to wait around to see if you start again? The answer in most cases is certainly no.
One of the most common problems we come across is companies only having onsite backups, usually to a USB drive or similar, for small data bloopers such as Debbie in accounts has accidentally deleted an invoice, they are great, however, in the event of a real disaster such as fire, they provide little to no protection at all.
Backups form the base for most disaster recovery plans and without them, you have little hope of recovery. Make sure you are in constant communication with your IT department or IT professional to ensure your backups are up to date and complete.
Technology is another one of the key aspects in most modern businesses, as everything is done on computers you may need to replace all of your technology at very short notice. Make sure you have multiple channels to get the technology you need quickly. Your IT department or IT professional will most likely have good relationships with tech distributors who can supply quickly. Be aware, at this point your IT person will be sweating A LOT! There is a very good chance that the future of the company relies on their ability to manage the rollout of tech to every employee and the rebuilding of parts or all of the company IT infrastructure using the backups which are complete and up to date.
We have seen all too often management shouting at IT guys because they are not working quick enough etc. from experience this is one of the most stressful times in an IT professional’s life. As a business owner or manager, ensure you support your IT staff, bring them a drink and ask them if they are ok. After all, they are the unseen foundation of most businesses.
In many situations, your business premises may be uninhabitable, in which case you will need to find alternative space for you and your staff to work from. In a lot of cases, we have seen business owners choose to have their employees work from home. This method was brought to life for a lot more businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic itself has tested the disaster recovery plans for a lot of businesses and highlighted how unprepared others were. Don’t forget, no matter your choice of location, your IT person still needs to set up the ability for your staff to communicate electronically, unless you have prepared for this in advance.
Disaster recovery planning seriously highlights the importance of good planning. If early planning and a good backup schedule can be put in place early, businesses will suffer a lot less downtime and associated loss. Where poor planning can mean the business is down for a lot longer if it recovers at all!
If you need help and advice about disaster recovery planning please get in touch.