Move from Disaster Recovery to Business Continuity Planning
Don't Have a Business Continuity Plan? Read On.
Although the word “disaster” can evoke images of large-scale events like hurricanes or tornados, most work disruptions are much more mundane in nature. While far less exciting, power outages, software/hardware failures and file corruption are frequently the culprits of network downtime. And, for smaller companies, the impact of these lesser disasters can be significant. For example, the unexpected loss of network resources alone could be catastrophic, potentially causing as much damage to your business as a large-scale disaster, especially if it occurs during the height of your company’s busy season.
By developing a business continuity plan, your business should be able to run smoothly and remain productive under nearly any circumstance.
Make Continuity Planning a Priority
Developing a business continuity plan can help prepare your business for the challenges caused by a disruption. With a well-designed plan, you will not only protect your organization from large-scale outages, you will also be able to handle smaller problems that could cause big issues. The first part of the planning process is to stop thinking of continuity planning as a backup plan and start viewing it as a productivity plan. In this article, we outline the four steps you can take to implement a continuity plan.
Four Steps to Implement Continuity Planning
#1 – Establish Workload Balancing
Workload balancing is a method of distributing data across two or more network resources, which could include computers systems and storage access methods. Spreading user requests and tasks across multiple systems protects your network from failure due to a disruption or overload, and can be achieved through virtual, software and hardware solutions.
One of the key benefits of workload balancing is scalability. For example, it can help keep response times fast by distributing the requests over two or more servers. With additional servers performing the work, your network can accommodate additional users and scale easily as your business needs dictate.
One of the best reasons to consider workload balancing is “failover.” Failover refers to the ability of a system to remain operational, or still available, while one or more components have failed or gone down.
#2 – Automate Application Recovery
Much of an organization's continuity plan depends on recovering applications and system failures quickly, regardless of which one is the problem. Recurring and lengthy downtime has a direct effect on your business because:
- Revenue is lost
- Employee productivity is reduced
- Customer satisfaction and confidence suffers
- Technical support expenses increase
Automated application and system recovery practically eliminates costly downtime and stems productivity losses when systems crash. Recovery software can coordinate the migration of an entire business’s applications and data from one server to another with minimal downtime.1 Business continuity software companies, who provide this capability, can be found via IT consultants, in the yellow pages or on the Internet.
#3 – Explore Cost-Effective Cloud-Based Virtualization
For many small business organizations, the most practical approach to business continuity planning is cloud virtualization. In that case, your systems, applications, and /or data run on servers operated by third-party providers that usually bill on a subscription basis. With this model, your business can access computing resources on demand without up-front capital expenditures on hardware and software.
Virtualization can dramatically improve the efficiency and availability of your applications and data for the following reasons:
- A virtualized architecture enables organizations to dynamically allocate hardware resources based on when and where they are needed most.
- Business continuity plans based on virtualization can make recovery simple, reliable and more cost-effective.
- Using a third-party cloud provider can speed and simplify IT management and the deployment and maintenance of new applications.
#4 – Test Your Continuity Plan
Whether or not you can successfully carry out your business continuity plan is unknown unless you test it. If your systems went down, how long would it take to get them up and running again, and what would be required to do that? Here is one approach to testing your plan:
1. Outline your objectives: Explain the importance of business continuity to your employees. Discuss how a plan can minimize the impact a crisis could have on customers, vendors and them.
2. Review your plan: Distribute copies of the plan to essential employees tasked with taking immediate action should a disruption occur. Ensure they understand the plan.
3. Schedule testing: Decide how often to test the business continuity plan. Because business continuity plans may be complex, you may want to test the plan in stages or in its entirety. And, since in reality no one knows when a real disaster will occur, you may want to consider an un-announced and unplanned test. It could be far more effective in evaluating the quality and effectiveness of the entire continuity plan.
4. Execute: Develop a fake scenario that could affect your business – perhaps a flood, a disabled server or another disaster. During the simulation, have employees go through each step of the plan as if the scenario were real. Responses and response time should mirror the plan.
5. Study lessons learned: After testing, determine areas that need improvement, the parts of the plan that worked best and where you need to make changes to ensure that the most effective plan is put into motion.
6. If changes are made, retest the plan.
A business continuity plan is important for two primary reasons. First, it will ensure that you minimize costs and reduce downtime even during a minor disruption, such as a power outage. Second, in a larger event like an earthquake, a solid business continuity plan could actually mean the difference between whether your business recovers or not. If your plan cannot provide a timely recovery, the testing process may shed light on potential improvements such as implementing workload balancing, automated application recovery, and/or virtualization.
How Can Time Warner Cable Business Class Help?
Time Warner Cable Business Class (TWCBC) Cloud Services offer a flexible, cost-effective solution for delivering the IT services your business needs, right when you need them – without the cost and complexity of managing them in-house. TWCBC Cloud Services† help employees access and seamlessly share emails, contacts, calendars and documents, as well as synchronize information in real time, on virtually any PC, BlackBerry®††, Android™, iPhone or tablet using Microsoft® Hosted Exchange 2010, SharePoint® 2010 and Outlook®. And you, the business owner, do not have to invest in the latest software and hardware or IT resources to manage all of these activities.
Let TWCBC Cloud Services streamline your communications by moving your on-premise email, file sharing and backup services to the cloud. With free on-boarding and 24/7 support, we make transitioning to the cloud fast and easy.
TWCBC Online Backup helps minimize your company’s risk of data loss due to file corruption, theft, accidental deletion and natural disasters. Backing up in the cloud is an ideal solution for your data because it is stored at an offsite location. Privacy and security are top of mind with our strict security policies, military-grade encryption technology and state-of-the-art data centers. Protect your data and enhance your business continuity plan with managed, secure storage of all email and business data in multiple safe locations with 24/7 support.
TWCBC Teleworker Solutions offer reliable IT services that are critical for employees to remain productive when they work at home or in the event they are not able to come to the office. With remote access services and security applications designed specifically for business teleworking, Time Warner Cable Business Class delivers the reliability and cost-savings for your business needs, while allowing your remote employees to leverage our technology for continued productivity. Choose the level of service that is right for your business.
TWCBC Business Class Phone ensures that you stay connected with your employees, vendors and customers. And by using our free Voice Manager portal, you can quickly change, activate, deactivate or update the phone features of your business – such as call forwarding and hunt groups – anytime you want, from anywhere you have an Internet connection. You can also have your voicemail messages routed to your computer or smartphone via email and listen to your business phone voicemail messages from your computer, which could keep the lines of communication open during a disruption.
- Virtualization and the Small Business, Eric D. Brown, April 4, 2013
- Rachel A. Dines, Stephanie Balaouras, and Eveline Oehrlich, Move Beyond Disaster Recovery and Prepare For Business Technology Resiliency, Forrester Report, September 13, 2012
† Time Warner Cable Business Class Cloud Services are available only to customers with at least one Internet service from Time Warner Cable Business Class. A commitment of at least three (3) mailboxes (premium, standard, or any combination of these two) is required.
†† BlackBerry® support available at an additional monthly charge.
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