‘We’re fine – all our data is in the cloud’. Have these words ever come up in conversations about your organisation’s business resilience?
Cloud is often touted as the magic solution to many business challenges, offering flexibility and agility for a fraction of the cost of running your own hardware, as well as protection against data loss and an essential tool in disaster recovery. We also talk about cloud as a key element in any organisation’s disaster recovery and business continuity plans, but it’s important to emphasise that while it solves a great many problems, it brings new challenges of its own.
There are still times when you need to work off-line, and one of these is during some kind of disaster recovery situation. Current cloud storage services often offer the facility to keep a local copy of your data that automatically synchronises with the cloud version when you’re back on-line. But many of our clients are creative agencies who work with large design or video files, and this can quickly lead to issues with the amount of data synchronising to your local machine. This problem could be magnified in a disaster recovery situation, where people may be using hardware that isn’t well suited to the task in hand. Organisations need to think carefully about structuring their data to ensure that people have quick access to crucial files without having to store gigabytes of data on a local machine.
Using cloud services assumes a certain connection speed, otherwise retrieving files from the cloud or synchronizing data will hamper people’s ability to work. Most organisations have thought about their day to day connectivity needs, but often only the obvious emergency scenarios get covered. For example, true resilience for an office building should include multiple routes in for internet connections, ideally with one of them being a wireless connection, and all carrying sufficient bandwidth for essential operations to continue.
Furthermore, if you are expecting essential staff to work from home, do you know what kind of connection they have there, and how can you ensure that it’s up to the task? Residential broadband contracts don’t often have rigorous service level agreements built in – as we discovered when told that a problem with a director’s home broadband reported on a Sunday might be fixed on the following Wednesday. Possibly. (The provider shall remain nameless at this stage, as our director really wants his broadband back up and running!
It’s tempting to think that putting your data in the cloud is sufficient back up – after all, the big cloud provider you’re using will have their own disaster recovery and backup systems, that’s what you’re paying them for.
But even big companies aren’t immune to human error, acts of God, war or other unforeseen emergencies, so it pays to think through your options. Examine your service level agreement carefully to understand what your cloud provider guarantees – if your business would collapse if it couldn’t work for 8 hours, and your cloud provider guarantees that access to your data will be restored after 12 hours, you might have a problem.
You are only really protected if you have your own backup systems and processes in place that you control , with a robust recovery plan to minimise the risk of you losing access to your data completely.
Plan for the worst, expect the best
A Disaster Recovery Plan is vital: it’s not enough to know your data is protected, you (and more importantly your employees) need to know what to do when the worst happens. We’ll talk more about Disaster Recovery Plans in another post, but as a starting point:
- Work out what your most likely disaster recovery scenarios are
- Make sure you clearly define the expected resolution to each scenario, and the actions required to get you there
- Assign responsibility for those actions to named individuals and make sure they are clear on their responsibilities
- Set up processes (either automated or manual) for notifying those people when action is required.
If you’d like to talk to us about how your technology can keep you working in an emergency, just give us a call 020 7043 7044 or drop us a line firstname.lastname@example.org.