Each week vnunet.com asks a different expert to give their views on recent virus and security issues, with advice, warnings and information on the latest threats.
This week Matthew Gingell, marketing director of TeleCity, suggests steps managers can take to their improve disaster recovery strategy that don't necessitate high-level and expensive business continuity plans.
We constantly read about how unprepared UK businesses are for disasters. While most companies have established some form of backup, only a third store their backed up data off-site, and even fewer have tested their disaster recovery plans to see if they would work in practice.
So we know the problem, but what is a UK business manager actually supposed to do about it?
High-level planning is vitally important, of course. But positioning IT continuity planning as a topic solely for senior management can give the misleading impression that provisioning for 'the worst' necessarily involves significant investment in both management time and money.
In fact, most UK businesses could achieve a significant improvement in their levels of resilience for a modest investment. And these steps can be taken now without waiting for the high-level business continuity plan or expensive preparatory consultancy.
The critical importance of IT means that severe damage, both to revenue and customer satisfaction, is inflicted when systems and networks fail.
And yet it is extraordinary how many companies will allow business-critical and customer-facing applications to run on servers located in a basement or corner of an office with unsuitable cooling, expensive, single-sourced connectivity and no uninterruptible power supply.
The costs involved in moving these servers to a third-party datacentre are less than most businesses imagine, and would be quickly won back by savings made in management resource, space and power, with dramatic increases in IT and network resilience and physical and logical security.
While disaster recovery focuses on minimising the impact of unpredicted events, business continuity takes a broader approach. At its heart it is all about injecting a fundamental resilience into the IT infrastructure (and into the business as a whole) so that it can carry on activities as normal.
Take a good look at the dependence you have on the core systems: email, telephone, the availability of the customer database, billing engines. How resilient are they? What could be done to make them less susceptible to single or multiple failures?
You might have to consider offsite data backup, mirror server sites or resilient connectivity agreements (after all, it's not much use having your data backed up somewhere if it can't be uploaded when needed).
Appropriate levels of straightforward IT continuity provisioning are affordable for almost every UK organisation.
A practical, smart approach will save businesses time and money while offering the level of resilience required.
So, to companies that have been putting off taking any action: get on with it! You'll soon find it is less daunting than you think.
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