Is your business protected against downtime caused by severe weather?

By Jess Shanahan

With storm Barney hitting the UK and more than 7,000 businesses being left without power, there’s a need for services that protect against data loss and downtime, as well as security threats.

While downtime caused by a natural disaster is low risk, businesses aren’t safe from server issues due to human error, hardware failure or cyber-attacks and it’s down to all IT departments to assess the risk and impact of something like this happening.

Richard Chapman, Head of Managed IT at Elite Comms Group says: “All businesses should have a disaster recovery plan, this is a brief document that looks at potential risks to the continuity of your business and the likelihood of that risk affecting you, as well as the potential action that should be taken. Natural disaster is the worst case scenario and while the severity is high, the likelihood is low.

“Hardware failure and software corruption are more likely. A disaster recovery plan needs to look at all scenarios to assess the impact on the business and what action might need to be taken to get everything back up and running again.”

Back up your data

Most businesses these days will have a data backup strategy. If it’s something as simple as an external hard drive that gets taken home at the end of every day, there’s still the risk that it could get lost or damaged, especially if there’s a widespread natural disaster.

Cloud backup services eliminate this risk. This is where a third party will put an application onto a computer and will remotely backup that data, meaning a business has an offsite back up.

Some companies may have taken a disaster recovery service too, with a cold site and spare hardware that covers the business in the event that a natural disaster does strike and an entire building or site is lost.

Minimising downtime

It seems that all the options businesses have had until now only protect against data loss and don’t protect against server failures. Chapman says: “If a server goes down, it might take hours or even days to rebuild and this means your staff might not have access to the important applications they need to do their job.

“If you lost your Exchange or mail server, how long would it take you to rebuild a new one? In that instance, the business has got to think about the impact on its employees’ ability to do their jobs without certain applications as that’s when the operational impact kicks in. If your staff can’t provide a service to their customers, how long will that customer wait before they go elsewhere?”

Many disaster recovery services still take days to recover a single server locally but Elite Comms Group has found a solution to get a server back in minutes. Chapman explains: “We’ve created a hybrid backup and recovery service. We put an appliance – a combination of special software and hardware – in the customer’s local area network that has the ability to back up data and servers in that office to the local appliance.

“It creates a ready-to-recover virtual image of a server, meaning that if a server goes down, it can be easily restored to the appliance, within minutes. That means downtime is reduced significantly and allows time to build a new server without the panic of getting it done as quickly as possible because users will be able to run all their usual applications from the appliance.

Testing, testing, testing

With a disaster recovery plan in place, you can rest easy but the plan needs to be tested. Very few businesses want to run the risk of turning off a server to test their solution, which ultimately shows a lack of confidence in the safeguards that have been put in place. Elite Comms Group’s backup and recovery service eliminates this with a safe and easy way to test the system. Chapman says: “Users have the ability to restore the virtual images of their servers on a test network on the local appliance so they don’t have to turn off the production server to do a test.”

In the event of a disaster

If disaster does strike and an entire building is taken out, the software can also replicate to a second appliance in an offsite location. Chapman says: “A second appliance can be stored in a cold site, second office or in our data centre. This means a business has onsite capability for data backup and recovery, server recovery, and testing of the system, as well as the ability to move offsite if necessary. Should you lose your entire office because of a natural disaster, you can recover your servers so workers can log in remotely within minutes.

“This is a unique service here in the UK and it addresses the growing need for hybrid enterprises.”

It’s time all businesses look at their disaster recovery plan to help protect against downtime caused by severe weather, natural disasters and the ever-growing threat of cyber-attacks.


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