How to Help your Business Weather any Storm
By: Rob Duffy on Monday, November 5, 2012

Apparently Mother Nature did not get the memo that hurricane season is wrapping up. Hurricane Sandy bore down on the East Coast and was certainly the “Super Storm” that meteorologists predicted it to be, with high winds and widespread flooding up and down the East Coast. Unfortunately, storms like these are not uncommon; they happen with what seems to be ever increasing frequency no matter where you live in the country. Snow in the North, hurricanes down South, tornadoes in the Midwest and earthquakes on the West Coast. These are facts of life and things that all businesses must prepare for. Technology has come a long way and provides solutions that allow companies to stay productive no matter what the weather conditions.

There are 3 things a business must do to become resilient during these unpredictable events.

  1. Protect your core data and applications.
  2. Enable employees to work remotely.
  3. Develop backup procedures that can survive any disaster.

Protect your core data and applications: All businesses have a core set of data and applications that are critical to the survival of the company. If you are a service business, it could be your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. If you are an accounting firm it could be client files in your document database, or it could be as simple as your email server. Whatever it is that makes your business tick, it needs to be protected. That means moving it to a proper data center with redundant power and internet capabilities. The broom closet in your office is not a proper data center. Think of all the work that went into cultivating your corporate IP or customer lists and how easily it could be lost if your building was flooded or simply just lost power. Your employees and your business would be completely unproductive until access to the server was restored, and depending on the extent of the damage, that could be hours, days or weeks. A proper data center has redundant power, internet access and is built to withstand the elements. This will allow you to remain functional regardless of the physical state of your office. If your company is not large enough to build out your own data center you can partner with a hosting provider that can offer you space for your physical servers or cloud services for a virtual environment. This will allow you to build and manage your virtual data center and protect your core applications and data from outside forces.

Enable Employees to Work Remotely: During a natural disaster the safety of your employees is the highest priority. By enabling them to work remotely you do not have ask them to head out on the road in dangerous conditions. They can stay at home with their families and be just as productive as if they were sitting at their desk in the office. With a Virtual Hosted Desktop Infrastructure, employees can have access to the same corporate data and applications they use in the office, but from anywhere they have an internet connection. This means your employees can use their Mac computer at home, their iPad from the coffee shop or from a thin client at a remote office site. They’ll have access to their desktop with the exact same settings and preferences they use every day so there is no productivity lost when a user cannot make it into the office.

Develop a Backup Procedure that can Survive any Disaster: Moving data and apps to a data center and allowing workers to work remotely will allow you to function for days or weeks until the natural disaster abates, but what if the unthinkable happens? What if there is a fire or your data center is destroyed. Thankfully, these types of situations don’t happen often, but that does not mean you don’t have to plan for them. With a disaster of this magnitude some amount of downtime would be expected, but within hours or at most days you will need to be operating again. By developing and testing a resilient backup procedure you should be able to survive any situation. It is important to keep your backup copies separated from your data. A backup set kept in the same room or data center as the server will do you no good in a fire. You should put as much distance as you can between you source data and its backup, preferably many miles rather than a few feet. Just as important as setting up the backup procedure is to test it on a regular basis. The worst time to find out that your backups have failed is in the middle of a disaster when you are trying to restore your data. IT environments change often and backup plans need to be tested and updated to make sure they are keeping up with the changes.

In today’s competitive and fast business environment your business cannot risk losing its competitive edge because of weather events. The steps outlined above are not easy and require planning and implementation well in advance of a storm. Today’s businesses must understand that it is not a question of if a weather emergency will hit, but when. Building a clear and sensible Disaster Recovery plan will enable your employees be productive, protect your intellectual property and, most importantly, keep your clients happy.



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