Whether they're caused by a hurricane, fire, power outage, hardware failure or software glitch, interruptions can mean big trouble for small businesses.
Organizations should devise business continuity strategies to mitigate the risk. While these plans will vary significantly from company to company, most companies’ plans share certain common components:
Data, Application and Server Image Backup
As businesses grow increasingly dependent on IT, it becomes critical to ensure that core systems can be restored in the event that servers, storage or network equipment fail, are damaged or become inaccessible.
This is accomplished through regular backup of data and applications. Historically, companies have maintained onsite backups that could be utilized to quickly restore business operations, while also using tape backups to move copies of critical data offsite in case of an emergency. The trend today is to use the cloud for backup, for several reasons:
- The cloud offers economies of scale that allow for large amounts of data to be stored inexpensively.
- Automated backup to the cloud eliminates the unreliable manual processes associated with tape backup.
- Cloud providers typically mirror their customers’ data at multiple locations, which helps safeguard business continuity even in the event of a severe regional disaster.
- Cloud backup gives businesses the flexibility to access critical systems from anywhere, including employees’ homes and alternative workspaces.
- A network connection of sufficient size can enable all necessary data to be both backed up into the cloud and restored in a timely manner.
Many businesses also opt for a hybrid solution that implements cloud computing for some operations and on-premises backup for others.
Server and Desktop Virtualization
Virtualization turns server and desktop configurations into software “images” that can be reproduced on other physical devices. Originally, virtualization solutions from vendors such as VMware and Citrix were created to streamline IT operations and improve the utilization of physical IT capacity. However, this technology is also useful for business continuity, since it allows a company’s infrastructure to be reproduced at an alternative location or in the cloud.
Backup Power and Cooling
Since power outages are a primary cause of unplanned IT downtime, businesses should equip their essential infrastructure with uninterruptible power supplies. UPSs can keep vital IT services up and running temporarily during a power outage, and make sure the business can transition to alternative cloud infrastructure in an orderly manner, if necessary. UPS-powered fans may also be necessary to ensure that IT equipment can be properly cooled in the event of a power failure.
Unified Communications and Collaboration
Unified communications technology facilitates collaboration by combining voice, email, instant messaging/chat and video into an integrated set of easy-to-use tools. UC solutions from companies such as Cisco Systems and ShoreTel can also be extremely useful in the event that employees have to work from their homes because it enables them to communicate with each other easily in real time, even when they are not in the same physical location. UC can be especially useful for safeguarding communications with the outside world by automatically routing incoming business calls to employees’ smartphones.
Social Collaboration and Social Media
Social media such as Facebook and Twitter can be useful during weather disasters. Many users turn to social media during such events, because they remain accessible even if local power and phone lines go out. Various businesses have a plan in place for using social media to keep employees, customers, suppliers and partners informed during an emergency.
For more information on business continuity, read the white paper “Disasters of Any Kind Can Negatively Affect Small Businesses.”