Surviving Disaster

by Mark Swanson

The term “disaster recovery” and its association with the cloud is used so much these days that it has become somewhat of a cliché. Floridians usually think of hurricanes; in California, its earthquakes; in the mid-west, the deadly tornado. But if you stop and think about it, the vast majority of disasters are really everyday events. Servers crash, buildings burn, power goes out. It happens.

Everyday disasters are the biggest reason on why it is vital to have a comprehensive disaster recovery plan — one that covers the everyday contingencies. If you properly prepare, you can keep business up and running with little to no loss. However, if you’re unprepared, you could lose time, money and business — something no company can afford, especially in these uncertain times.

I am not saying to ignore preparation for the big things, but you need to be ready for the more likely disasters. Disasters are measured in terms of potential loss and the likelihood of an event. Everyone in our town thinks of hurricanes, so when there’s a seminar the planning is all around coping with a disastrous event. But if you look at the facts, there has not been a hurricane to hit Tampa since 1921. What you see are things like fires, highway crashes or a back hoe through the telephone lines. Also, if there is a big disaster, everyone is going to know it, there will be others (like the government, hopefully) to aid you and your customers will probably be more forgiving.

However, if you tell them you are out for a week because your server blew up, you aren’t going to be given much slack. Since there are so many possibilities, how can you plan for everything? That’s the paradox, you can’t. The disaster that happens will not happen the way you thought it would. The key is making sure your lines of communication are understood and what we call ‘disaster redirect,’ which is the built-in ability to redirect from the premise to the cloud. Backup servers are nice, but if you want to be truly covered, you should consider cloud-based communications.

When our building lost power, the on-site batteries gave us time to move equipment around, tap into local wireless routers and decide which employees should work from home. Since all of our network equipment and servers are located in secure data centers, all our systems continued to operate as if nothing happened. Even when our on-site batteries ran down, our staff was able to work from home where they had access to the network monitoring and ticketing systems to continue business as usual. Our phones were diverted to employees’ mobile phones or home office phones, depending upon how they configured their individual profiles.

Other than getting a little extra exercise from walking down the stairs, it was just another day for our employees. But most importantly, not one of our customers ever noticed that we experienced and survived a disaster. With cloud-based communications, you can continue with business as usual no matter what occurs. How would your business be affected if your building lost power for the entire day? Would it be business as usual?