Protecting IT Infrastructure During National Preparedness Month
In the U.S., the severe weather events of late August and early September have cast a sobering spotlight on business continuity and disaster recovery. Every moment spent preparing IT infrastructure for disruptive events saves an untold number of hours — and dollars — after a crisis unfolds.
You already know the case for developing an effective business continuity strategy: it prevents loss to productivity, revenue and reputation. You also know that every organization should have a business continuity strategy, and you probably plan to work on it someday. Unfortunately, someday often arrives without warning. This year’s theme for National Preparedeness Month is “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead; You Can,” according the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This September, it’s time to prepare your IT infrastructure for the unexpected.
Identify Business Priorities
Priorities should be based on risk, so identify the tasks that, if left incomplete, would cause the most damage to your profitability and the people you and your customers must communicate with. Once you’ve identified key business functions and people, prioritize how you’ll protect and restore the operation centers, IT infrastructure, applications, data and other essentials after disaster strikes.
Don’t merely define risk in the way you understand your operations; think about the external regulations that govern you. Protecting access to last month’s financial data may seem like a low priority during this month’s crisis, but it’s important to maintain a chain of custody over financial data at all times.
Additionally, remember the agreements you’ve made, both contractual and unspoken. If you’re a cloud services provider or carrier that has made a 99.999 percent uptime promise, your disaster plan has to ensure you keep your word. If you’re a software-as-a-a-service provider with clients who depend on your applications, you need a failover option that keeps them running. When you build a reputation for executing effectively during a crisis, you’ll not only please your clients but also create opportunities to win new business.
Keep the Lights On
During a natural disaster, severe weather, network attack or other serious incident, the first priority is to stay operational as long as possible. In the data center — throughout all facilities and for team members working remotely — it’s critical to maintain power supplies, connectivity and communications in addition to maintaining equipment and applications.
The cloud’s ability to power telework can be a lifesaver during a disaster. For example, if you use internet telephony within your offices, you can temporarily route phone calls to softphone apps installed on employee smartphones. That way, anyone with power and an internet connection can continue to work and serve your clients. If you operate a cloud contact center, you can ensure that your agents have the equipment and connectivity to work remotely.
Plan for Restoration
Nothing will work perfectly during a disaster, no matter how well you prepare. It’s important to set disaster recovery priorities for restoring business functions; you have to turn everything on in the right order. Consider not only the risk assessment you’ve already done but also the interdependencies between tasks, equipment and applications. This ensures that you’re restoring both your key functions and the tools that support them.
It’s also important to establish recovery point and recovery time objectives, and let those objectives govern your data backup strategy. Some data must be backed up the instant it’s recorded or altered and must be restored immediately. Other data can be backed up once a week, and it can be one of the last things you bring back online.
Invest in Managed IT Infrastructure Services
Disasters seem urgent when they’re on the horizon, while they’re happening and as you recover. However, it’s human nature to be lulled into a false sense of security when disasters aren’t imminent. Managed high-availability services can help with tasks like business continuity and disaster recovery planning that get lost in the day-to-day activities. They can also provide key manpower (and brain power) when you’re getting everything back up and running.