A strong Business Continuity strategy is key in a crisis

Tadhg Cashman, services director with Logicalis, outlines the importance of a strong Business Continuity Strategy.  

Every organisation has been adapting to a new way of working in light of the COVID-19 crisis that has been sweeping the globe. Businesses which have never contemplated remote working are having to facilitate it for every member of staff, while also ensuring that operations are not disrupted and service levels are maintained. That means having robust and reliable IT systems and processes which enable people to access work files and data from various locations, but also safeguarding and backing up such information and infrastructures.

Companies’ Business Continuity (BC) plans have been dusted off and rapidly put to the test as the requirement to enable entire workforces to work remotely from home have been mandated by the Government’s rapidly escalating restrictions on the movement of people. Similarly, there’s an urgent refocus on IT Disaster Recovery (DR) plans to ensure that organisations can weather the storm if other disaster scenarios compound the challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Many of the large cloud service providers have seen unprecedented demand for their compute and storage capacity as organisations seek to rearchitect quickly to accommodate staff, suppliers and customers who suddenly must rely on updated processes, changing applications and new channels of communication.

Access to your Systems 

With companies so dependent on IT systems and processes nowadays, issues including downtime and loss of data can have a serious impact on an organisation. As well as affecting productivity and customer service levels, system unavailability can also damage brand reputation and compliance standards. In turn, this can be bad news for revenue and company growth.

That is why it is crucial to have an effective DR and BC strategy in place. The first step of this is to do an assessment in order to understand the processes, infrastructure and applications that support your business. These insights will provide the basis for your plan and enable you to understand your requirements and where things can be improved in this area.

The aim is to make sure that the software and solutions you have in place are resilient, adaptive and able to fulfil the Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO) – such an assessment will give you an idea of the time it would take for services to be restored following a disaster and the amount of files that need to be restored to enable normal operations to resume. DR and BC have to be at the forefront when assessing existing systems or deploying new applications. If it′s not, it could be costly for your business.

Adapt to the new normal 

Protecting business-critical applications and data is vital and a constant, ever-evolving challenge. Furthermore, there is the added complexity of having to do this remotely due to the current COVID-19 crisis. At times such as these, it is ever more vital to safeguard company systems and ensure business continuity with the risk of cyber-attacks and disruption higher than ever.

To do this successfully, a well-structured DR and BC plan is a must. This includes mapping out the steps that would keep mission-critical products and services operational even after a disaster, taking all possible technology and business drivers into consideration. Where possible, simplify your infrastructure and build on reputable methodologies, as well as best practices. Not only will this increase the effectiveness of your environment, it will increase security and reduce operational costs.

Remember, your organisation is individual and so too is your data, therefore finding the right solution for your needs is key. For example, smaller customers might benefit more from Data-Recovery-as-a-Services (DRaaS) solution deployed in a hybrid, virtualised environment on shared infrastructure. Meanwhile, larger organisations may need to take a different approach. By adapting your systems based on your specific requirements, you will increase your chances of protecting and maintaining your operations during the current crisis.

Automate where it makes sense 

The third step to consider in terms of your DR and BC approach is automation. Not only does automation help to reduce costs, it also reduces staff workloads and therefore pressure on your team.

By completing labour-intensive and error-prone tasks which can lead to downtime and negatively affect business performance, automation can help to prevent such issues by executing these properly and more efficiently. This also frees up and enables employees to be more productive and focus more on business-critical tasks.

Speaking of resources, DR and BC is a complex area of IT and one which lends itself to outsourcing to third parties. Be it a managed services provider or a co-location service provider, companies can benefit greatly from having the experience of an external party to identify the best solutions and offer an extra layer of support when needed. During the COVID-19 crisis, we have seen many of our customers having to work hard to keep core IT operations running seamlessly, while the scramble to enable and support remote workforces plays out.

Analyse and measure impact

No matter the solution or strategy, one of the elements of success is analysing and measuring its impact. The same goes for your DR and BC strategy. Is it helping to protect your data? Is it helping to effectively run the business? Have you had an outage or disruption to processes and what was the result?

You need to know if your IT environments and protocols are fit for purpose and if they are supporting the organisation in the ways that you need them to, both now and in the future. This means continual testing and effective management. Furthermore, you want to have confidence in your solutions and processes when they are put to the test, either during a cybersecurity breach, a period of downtime or a situation such as the one we are in. While many organisations are rightly focused on the here and now of getting through the crisis, ignoring test planning and not executing DR testing adds additional risk into an already difficult situation.

DR and BC are critical elements in every organisation and that fact has never been more evident than during the COVID-19 crisis – the organisations that had poorly resourced, partially planned and untested BC plans had to move quickly to re-strategise and properly resource their remote continuity capability. Business leaders need to ensure that they have the solutions, systems and strategies in place to ensure minimal disruption to operations and uphold customer service levels, whilst enabling remote working and continuing to safeguard their IT environment.

To find out more about how Logicalis Ireland can support your organisation with your DR and BC strategy, contact the team today!