Is a Backup Solution Enough for Energy Providers?

By: Jacqueline Lee| - Leave a comment

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When the power goes out, businesses that go offline lose money quickly. According to IBM research, businesses will experience an average of 2.3 disruption events each year, with an average total cost of $418,071. A backup solution will allow companies to recover data and applications at the point of last save, but operations will remain crippled until the energy provider restores service.

Is a Backup Solution Enough in the Energy Industry?

Now, imagine an energy company has no comprehensive business continuity plan. Its customers could grind to a complete halt, and businesses are not the only entities affected. Government facilities, from libraries to prisons to military bases, could experience disruptions in operations, and hospitals and emergency personnel could lose access to power, resulting in potentially life-threatening consequences.

A backup solution may save the energy company’s data, applications and settings, but it won’t save lives. With so many customers depending on them, energy companies must do everything possible to maintain continuous operations. However, this is no easy task given the issues that threaten business continuity in the energy industry.

Big World, Bigger Challenges

The energy industry faces many potential disruptions, and increasing interdependency means interruptions in one part of the world could have global effects.

Severe Weather and Natural Disasters

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes that climate change will likely affect future weather patterns and events. The effects are uncertain and will vary by region, but the bottom line is that unpredictable weather does more than just disrupt energy supplies and services — it also affects energy delivery, communications and IT infrastructure.

As global populations increase, particularly in urban areas, outages from disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes and floods will affect more people than ever before. A backup solution isn’t enough to keep electricity, fuel or communications flowing when people and businesses need them most.

Terrorism and Political Unrest

In October 2015, CNN Money reported that the Islamic State was attempting to attack America’s energy grid. Although the FBI said the group had yet to be successful, Cyber Division Section Chief John Riggi told the source that the attackers could invest in more powerful tools.

American energy companies should prepare for this possibility by having comprehensive business continuity plans. While these plans may not be enough to thwart cybercriminals, they will help companies prioritize critical systems and respond quickly and efficiently in the event of an attack.

Addressing Business Continuity Sooner Rather Than Later

According to IBM’s Joe Starzyk, continuity plans should be discussed during the data center deployment phase, not after a disaster strikes. In a Business Continuity Institute blog post, Starzyk notes that data center location has to be considered during cloud deployment, the same as the company would consider costs or service-level agreements.

However, this is too often a lesson companies learn the hard way. For instance, CSO reported that one major power supplier in the southern United States was in the path of Hurricane Katrina, and although the facility didn’t flood, it had no power supply and had to run on generators. On top of its own power woes, the company also struggled to restore electricity to its customers. Today, the provider divides its data center operations between two facilities located in different states.

More Than Passing an Audit

Testing a business continuity plan isn’t just about passing periodic audits and completing checklists. It’s about making sure the company can recover under the most difficult circumstances. The following are three capabilities a business continuity plan should have in place:

  • IT Infrastructure Recovery: Energy providers should start by ensuring they can bring hardware, connectivity resources and supporting systems back online.
  • Application Recovery: With supporting infrastructure in place, energy companies should be able to restore applications and their supporting databases from their backup solution.
  • Enterprise Validation: IT should make sure it can execute recovery not only at the local data center, but across all parts of the enterprise.

With potentially billions of dollars — and, more importantly, human lives — at stake when the power goes out, a data backup solution just isn’t enough. For energy companies lacking the in-house expertise to mount full-scale business continuity planning and testing, disaster-recovery-as-a-service solutions offer an affordable, reliable alternative.

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About The Author

Jacqueline Lee

Freelance Writer

Jacqueline Lee specializes in business and technology writing, drawing on over 10 years of experience in business, management and entrepreneurship. Currently, she blogs for HireVue and IBM, and her work on behalf of client brands has appeared in Huffington Post, Forbes, Entrepreneur and Inc. Magazine. In addition to writing, Jackie works as a social media manager and freelance editor. She's a member of the American Copy Editors Society and is completing a certificate in editing from the Poynter Institute.

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