With Hurricane Irma making a mess of Florida and Georgia I thought I would rerun this post that was brought to you from our friends at SocialMonsters.org. Timely advice is good regardless of when it was created.
You may think your small business doesn’t have to worry about recent large-scale data breaches at big companies like Target. However, experts like Defense Intelligence Agency’s senior officer Tyler Cohen Wood warn that small businesses are at even greater risk because hackers think they have less security. He advises small businesses to consider all the ways they collect data and to be aware that the more data they have and use, the more they have to lose in the event of a disaster like fire, flood, theft and criminal hacking.
The main goal of protecting business data is to ensure IT operations can return as quickly as possible after a disruptive event and continue business operations. This can be achieved best with a diverse strategy that includes disaster recovery planning, testing and cloud services for backup and disaster recovery.
Disaster Recovery Plan
Creating a disaster recovery plan requires a risk assessment or business impact analysis, says Paul Kirvan, an IT auditor, consultant and technical writer. Small businesses must first verify the IT services that support their companies’ critical business activities and then plan their disaster recovery strategies. He says small businesses should analyze four risk scenarios: loss of access to their premises, loss of data, loss of IT function and loss of skills. It’s particularly important to know where all IT services run in the business infrastructure and to rate the level of risk from events like fire in the data center, loss of power, water leak, staff illness and flood with a SWOT analysis.
Once risk levels are established and high-value data assets are identified, companies can work with an experienced backup and recovery partner to plan for data storage and recovery services. SunGuard Availability Services advises companies to consider how quickly they would need data restored in the event of a data loss event. In addition, Zerto product marketing director Jennifer Gill says this should dictate what type of recovery services you budget and contract for because the cost ranges depending on how fast you need the recovery to be.
It’s not enough for a company to know its high-value data assets and partner with a backup and recovery partner. USAA CIO Steve Yates explains that businesses need to conduct live tests on their disaster recovery plans and not just settle with role-playing scenarios once a year. Actually testing the disaster recovery plans, such as taking a piece of actual business operations and recovering it from backup data, should be done on a regular basis to identify the actual business impact and any gaps requiring attention.
Yates developed a series of large-scale business continuity exercises to see how quickly USAA could expect to recover systems, applications and third-party vendor connections. He says the real value in testing like this is that employees gain valuable experience in handling business emergencies and everyone can see the flaws and suggest improvements.
Information Services Group principal consultant Cindy LaChapelle says the rising importance of data in business operations gives new urgency to disaster recovery planning. Current trends that help with business continuity include social networks, mobile computing, cloud computing and virtualization. Disaster recovery services may incorporate cloud services, which include data backup so that data isn’t lost if the physical office is destroyed by fire, flood or earthquake.
An advantage of using cloud services as part of disaster recovery plans is the potential for faster, more flexible recovery services at a lower cost than maintaining backup equipment at a separate location. Furthermore, the access to mobile connectivity and social networking is invaluable in the event of natural disasters or emergency crises like 9/11. There is a plethora of cloud service options, so be sure to compare companies to see which works best for your business.