Happy New Year… or is it?

With the rush of a new year comes all sorts of activities.  Resolutions, taxes and planning just to name a few.  While most companies are laying out plans to make their businesses more successful in 2013, few business owners are looking at those areas that can destroy their hard earned business in mere minutes.

The new year is a great time to look at your business continuity plan (BCP).  Just as important as financial planning, business continuity planning can be of paramount significance should a disaster strike.

A well thought out business continuity plan will cover every aspect of how your business will function as well as respond to things during and after a disaster.

Ready.gov describes another aspect of business continuity planning called disaster recovery planning (DRP).  DRP focuses on developing a plan specific to recovery of information technology systems.

If you do any amount of research on these terms it can quickly get confusing, especially as you start to look in specific IT solutions to meet your needs of getting your business IT systems back online.

I will attach a link to guides you can download to easily walk your organization through these planning processes at the end of this article.  But for now, I want to focus on the aspect of getting your business IT systems recovered after a disaster.  A disaster can be anything from a server that will not turn on due to hardware failure to a catastrophic fire to a hurricane and anything in between.

We will get into more detail about specific solutions in a later article.  The main focus of this article is to make you aware of the solutions that are available and what they mean for your recovery.

First, let me say that most people purchase data backup solutions the wrong way.  People tend to look at cost and size and completely ignore the most important factor… recovery time.  The single most important question to answer first is, what is your recovery time objective (RTO).  More simply put, how much downtime can your business afford… how long can your IT systems be down before your business is in serious peril?  For some, no access to their IT systems or data for several days or even a couple of weeks is no big deal.  For others, having their systems down for more than an hour is bad news.

So lets look briefly at some solutions…

Instant Virtualization – allows a virtual image of your last Server or PC backup to be booted from another device so that your business can continue to function while the primary Server or PC is repaired.  Instant Virtualization can be done locally (onsite) or in the cloud (offsite).  This solution affords you the absolute best option for avoiding costly downtime.  Typically, in an outage or disaster, your critical business IT processes can be back online within 15 minutes to an hour.

Virtualization – this varies from Instant Virtualization in that… you guessed it… it isn’t instant.  This solution will backup a full image of your Server or PC to a backup device (local or cloud or both).  When needed, the image must be loaded on another PC running special software that allows for the use of virtual images.  If the image stored in the cloud is needed then the entire image must be downloaded first (depending on the size of the image and the speed of the download this can take days).  If you are able to use a local image copy then a good support tech can have you back running within a day or so… assuming there are no complications.

File Level Backup – Probably the most used of all backup options (as well as the most incorrectly used solution).  File Level Backup is simply the backing up of individual files on a Server or PC.  This option is primarily for the recovery of just a data set.  For example, you may want to backup your Quickbooks data this way or your My Documents folder.  File backups are not true business continuity solutions because there is no way to recover your IT systems during an outage.  Should a Server fail, the owner would have to replace the Server, have it setup, install the proper software and applications… then import the data that was backed up.  This is the slowest of any process and depending on your systems and how they are setup, this option of recovery can take several days to a couple weeks.

Lastly, let me point to one very critical aspect of any disaster recovery or business continuity plan.  TEST YOUR PLAN… TEST YOUR BACKUPS.  I cannot tell you how many clients over the past 14+ years have called during a disaster and we discover their backups do not work or they were backing up the wrong data or the backup hasn’t even been working for years.  I have seen grown men cry… not pretty.  Sadly, some of these businesses took years to fully recover and some completely closed down.

So, there you have it.  A very high level overview of disaster planning, basic backup and recovery solutions and a warning.  Happy New Year?  With properly planning and execution you can ensure that no matter what disaster may be waiting around the corner, it will ultimately still be a happy new year for your business.

For more information on any of our Backup & Recovery Solutions, simply give us a call or send us an email and we will be happy to help you better understand your needs and show you the solutions that properly fit.

Here is the info from Ready.gov to get you started on the analysis and planning phase.  http://www.ready.gov/business-continuity-planning-suite