In today’s fast paced world, technology tools are the centerpiece of running day to day operations, for example, the constant use of computers and the phone system. Although this has proven to be convenient, efficient and beneficial in many aspects, storing crucial information has increased the difficulty and need for data protection. According to the Gulf Coast Back to Business Act (2007), congress reported 43 percent of businesses who closed due to a natural disaster will never reopen; perhaps this is due to the alarming fact that, 50 percent of businesses did not have a recovery plan in place.
With 65 percent of small businesses located in areas prone to disasters, the costs of an IT outage (an average of $12,000 per day for small businesses if computers are down) should be avoided and prepared for. Disasters do not discriminate, and will strike, regardless of whether or not a business has taken proper precautions. The impact on staff with loss of technology, and the costs of recreating lost data due to physical damage, server failure or a power outage are enormous and at times, Impossible.
A business continuity plan is a strategy set to deal with larger system outages, ranging from a long term power outage to a natural disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, fire, theft or earthquake, which would cause substantial damage to an office. Business continuity has become less expensive and more obtainable for small businesses, as the flexibility provided with virtual servers allows for more infrastructure options at a significantly reduced cost.
A regularly tested, secure disaster recovery plan should be set for every company to ensure the best precautions, procedures and optimal results occur. It is key to continuously test backup and business continuity plans to ensure they are solid. Many companies have made the mistake of considering a plan adequate, only to have it fail once it is needed. Something as simple as an employee not granted the correct level of access could cause the failure of an otherwise flawless plan.
Protecting Phone Systems
Phones should always be considered when planning. In the event of a disaster phones would ring, and go without being answered. One option would be to have calls forwarded to cell phones, or to a recording advising callers that the phones are not available. A more efficient alternative would be to apply the use of virtual phones systems. VOIP (Voice over IP) solutions remove all the hardware from the office and provide a highly reliable and cost effective phone solution, offering more flexibility when considering business continuity.
Protecting In House Applications
If an in house business management application is used, there are various challenges to overcome. It is a common misconception that running software in one’s own office offers a higher level of protection, however, this is typically not the case when considering more substantial predicaments such as a fire or hardware failures. Generally, hosted service providers are ideal; they can spend more on resources, while their expertise allows them to build more redundant and robust solutions. However, if a hosted, cloud based solution is not an option, one solution is to image server drives, which creates a complete backup of a server and can be stored in a secure location. Another option would be to use virtual servers to supplement the infrastructure.
Protecting Cloud Based Applications
Hosted, cloud based business management applications store, process and manage data, on remote servers hosted on the internet. Cloud-based application offers various benefits, one of which is, it offers staff the ability to work from home, which would also be considered when composing a business continuity plan. When using the cloud, always confirm your software provider has a plan in place for business continuity and backups. Ask key questions, such as the steps to be taken in the event of a service or hardware failure, and the level of redundancy in the environment. Although their answers may be very technical, it is important to ensure the provider has a secure, well thought out and tested plan.
Backing up data is one of the most critical elements of business continuity, and there are many important factors to consider. Automation of backup procedures is critical, as it is not practical to ask a user to backup data on a regular basis. It is important to save only critical information, as opposed to saving everything; in order to make testing a more manageable task. Setting up a proficient backup strategy does not require an IT expert, online tools such as Cloudberry and Intronis, work well, and will alert in the event of a backup failure. For added security, backups should always be stored in an offsite location, so in the event of a disaster, the backups will be secure and unaffected. Lastly, continuous testing of backups is essential. Whether it is monthly or quarterly, this step is critical and should never go undone.
Efreightsolutions, LLC. develops innovative cloud based transportation and freight management systems for non-asset based freight brokers and 3PL service providers. Walter Mitchell, CTO of Efreightsolutions, LLC. may be contacted at 877-261-4004.