Having a comprehensive Disaster Recovery (DR) plan is essential for business continuity in the face of natural disasters and cyber-attacks.
When it comes to business, disaster can strike at any moment. And when it does, you ought to be prepared.
One morning, you could be sitting at your computer in your office, a steaming mug of coffee (complete with a witty phrase and foam art) placed beside you. You could be turned a little in your swivel chair, the smooth contours of your office’s windows to your side, as you peruse the morning’s financial reports. You could be mid-sip of a prize-winning roast when all of a sudden you spot something odd out of the corner of your eye. You turn to look, rising out of your chair as you squint at the strange sight.
Am I having an aneurysm? You ask yourself as you rub your eyes and check again. No, you aren’t. You’re indeed seeing a cat-nado barrelling towards you. Straight at your business.
Now, you could be worried about the fluffy tornado of cuteness taking out your mission-critical functions and completely hobbling your business and all its processes. You could, but you don’t. Instead, you sit back down on your comfortable and ergonomic leather chair that exudes executiveness, check your watch, take a sip of your coffee, and get back to work.
You do that because you know that all your files and services were backed-up elsewhere an hour ago. You know that if something were to happen, your business will be up and running again in a few minutes and the customers won’t even know that anything went wrong.
You made sure of it after the narwhal tsunami a couple of months ago. Global warming sure is getting weird these days…
Bracing for disaster: What is Disaster Recovery?
Be it natural or man-made, catastrophe or cyber-attack, ensuring that your business keeps running in the face of disaster is essential.
Especially if your business, whether online or off, stands to lose money for every minute that it’s not operational.
For every hour that you cannot provide the service that your customers know and are reliant on, is another hour that they can research alternatives—it’s a matter of customer retention, satisfaction and reputation.
The high availability that technology allows also means that the threshold for downtime has decreased. If unprepared, businesses could be overwhelmed by economic and operational costs if their services were to go down due to some kind of negative event.
In order to protect a business from the potentially devastating effects of a service outage, businesses should have a business continuity plan in place for each possible scenario that could affect services and products.
Disaster Recovery (DR) is a part of business continuity with the primary aim of resilience: to ensure that a system is put in place to withstand any problems that may arise so that all essential aspects and critical business functions remain online despite significant disruptive events.
Prevention is the first port of call since having a robust system that is very hard to go down means that recovery is not necessary. Even so, having a recovery plan in place is crucial for when even the robustness of your system is taxed beyond its boundaries—which will inevitably happen. When things do go wrong, the aim is to get a business up and running as soon as possible and with as minimal data loss as possible. Corrective measures ensure that customers and users either don’t notice the disruption or can be assured that critical services will be up-and-running again within a designated period of time with no or minimal data loss.
If something is wrong with your system, or your system goes down, you need to know about it, and thus it is also important to have detective measures. Disaster Recovery means nothing if you don’t know that there is a disaster in need of recovering from to begin with.
Backup in case of emergency: How does DR work?
One of the biggest parts of DR is having contingency systems in place to take over if your main system is taken offline for some reason. The aim of the game is to be back up on your feet again in the shortest amount of time with the most amount of data—or at the very least enough data to keep going and get critical services operational again, buying time for more robust data recovery procedures.
There are two very important terms that one should be aware of when it comes to DR:
- Recovery Time Objective (RTO) is the maximum time it takes to retrieve information from your backups and resume normal operations again after a disaster. If it takes any longer after a disaster to get up and running again, this could have disastrous consequences for your business.
- Recovery Point Objective (RPO) is the amount of data that can be “lost” before you cannot resume full functionality, or it can be seen as the minimum amount of data needed to continue normal business services. Of course, you might lose some data between the last backup, when the system goes down and when it is up again, RPO is meant to set what this tolerance is.
When making a business continuity plan, things like RTO and RPO are metrics that are decided beforehand, and in essence, describe the maximum time it is possible to lose in an outage and still resume normal activities again. This information is key in order to decide how one tackles DR, deciding what services and infrastructure are necessary to resume service.
Contingencies: What are backup sites?
In order to plan for the worst, having backup sites is an incredibly important contingency, offering supplementary and/or stand-alone hardware to pick up the slack and take over when an incident occurs.
Often, these are somewhere removed from the main operation so as to minimize being affected by the same circumstances that affected the primary system.
There are three different levels of backup sites:
- Cold sites refer to basic facilities minimally furnished with the basic hardware needed to keep operations going. When something goes wrong hardware is brought to the site so that operations can be resumed. Since no backup copies or hardware are stored there and kept running, this is the least costly option but can take longer to get up and running.
- Hot sites are fully-furnished sites with complete replicas of systems, backups and hardware needed to ensure business continuity—essentially a clone of your current systems. They can be ready in a few hours or automatically kick-in when it is needed, but this is costly: having to buy and maintain an entire second set of expensive hardware just for emergencies takes resources and capital.
- Warm sites are the middle ground between the two: hardware and connectivity may already be established, but data backups might be incomplete or not up-to-date, which causes a delay while the latest data is delivered.
A fourth option that has been emerging is Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS), which makes use of cloud-based technologies and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) services to ensure that your data is backed-up, synced. Some even provide stand-by sites and infrastructures for when you need them. This mitigates the need for companies to double up on infrastructure investments, sites, and run parallel backup systems—for a subscription fee.
Of course, crucial to any DR plan is the prerequisite of backing up your data; that’s why cloud-based solutions—having all your data on the internet and easily accessible—is a must.
Be it an earthquake, hurricane, fire or a crippling ransomware attack, you want to make sure that your business survives and continues to prosper.
Having a Disaster Recovery plan in place is key to doing just that: it means taking into account all the various things that can go wrong and having contingencies in place, be they external backup sites or cloud-based services so that your downtime is minimized.
The goal really is that, when disaster strikes, your customers barely even notice.
Since Digital Cabinet is a cloud-based web service, if you are using our system during a disaster, our service should continue regardless. We have multiple contingencies in place to ensure that your data remains backed-up, secure, and reachable during the worst of times—on your side or ours.
And rest assured, in the case of a puppy and kitten tornado, we will not panic.
You can find out more about Digital Cabinet at www.digitalcabinet.co.za