Business is increasingly becoming digital, no longer do SMBs rely on it just for their websites and email, instead, digital technology permeates every part of their operations. Such heavy reliance on technology, however, means that when a system goes down everything comes to a grinding halt and this can have disastrous consequences. Here, we explain how disasters can happen and why companies need a disaster recovery plan to ensure the effects are minimal.
The two main areas of risk are system failure and data loss. System failure can be due to many reasons, such as hardware failure, software issues or the failure of third-party services that the company uses. It can also be brought on by cyberattacks, such as hacking, malware infection or DDoS. The longer it takes to restore the system to full working order, the more impact it will have on the business in terms of lost revenue, customer complaints and reputational damage.
Data loss is significantly worse than system failure because, without data, even once the system is restored, the company won’t be able to continue its digital operations. Without data, there are no customer, order or transactional records. Indeed, everything a company may need could be missing: inventory, sales, shipping, customer journey maps, marketing data, accounting information, website tracking data, etc. With data playing such an important role in everyday operations and in future decision making, data loss can lead to a state of paralysis that many companies are unable to recover from.
The issue for small businesses, in particular, is that, compared to their larger rivals, they often have smaller budgets and less IT expertise to help get them out of such complex situations. To minimise the risk as much as possible, a comprehensive backup and disaster recovery plan is, in today’s marketplace, essential.
What is a Disaster Recovery Plan?
A disaster recovery plan is a set of protocols, procedures and solutions put in place to minimise risk and speed up recovery should a disaster occur. Well executed plans cover every form of disaster that can take place and all aspects of dealing with them, right down to listing the people involved in recovery and the individual tasks they are required to do.
A key element of disaster recovery is in being able to restore systems and data. With regards to systems, this may mean having redundant servers ready to boot should a system go down. The speed at which this can be achieved depends on whether those servers are already set up and configured and the software is preinstalled and ready to go. For too many smaller companies, however, the cost of buying expensive hardware simply for use as a redundant backup is beyond their budgets. They are often left having to order a new one and to wait for it to be delivered before recovery can take place, resulting in downtime that can take days or longer.
The other important aspect of a disaster recovery plan is backing up data. If data is backed up, it’s a simple case of restoring it to the system. However, there’s always a risk that the last backup is out of date. How the data is backed up is also crucial for disaster recovery. If it is stored on disks or tape, as many companies still use, it is likely to take considerable time to restore.
Why SMBs need cloud-based disaster recovery
When businesses consider disaster recovery, they usually have two different but important targets: recovery time and recovery point. Recovery time relates to how quickly normal service can be resumed; recovery point, on the other hand, relates to the last backup that took place before the disaster and what un-backed up data has been lost.
With regard to recovery point, cloud-based backup solutions offer companies the opportunity to schedule backups to take place automatically and as frequently as they need. For some, like online retailers, this requires continuous backups so that no order or transaction up to the moment of disaster is lost. This form of backup is impossible to achieve when carried out manually or when data is slowly backed up onto removable disks. In the cloud, where data transmission speeds are much faster, backups happen quicker and so the recovery point can be as late as possible.
From a recovery time perspective, cloud-based solutions enable businesses to back up their entire server; including apps, settings and data, so that once the hardware is available, recovery can take place much quicker.
Is this the quickest and most effective solution for SMB disaster recovery? Not quite. Recovery can be even quicker when your own systems are in the cloud to start with, as apps and data can be immediately transferred to virtual cloud servers and brought online again. In the cloud, there’s no need to purchase redundant hardware or wait for servers to be fixed before restoring apps and data. As a result, downtime is massively reduced and the effects on your business are kept to an absolute minimum.
Indeed, even the chances of a disaster are reduced in a cloud environment. The vendor will monitor the datacentre hardware around the clock and if issues arrive, they will move your virtual cloud server to new hardware straight away without it affecting uptime – and with multiple datacentres in different geographical locations, even natural disasters won’t affect continuity. What’s more, with advanced security tools, like next-gen firewalls, DDoS, malware and intrusion protection, the risk of a cyberattack is also far less in a cloud environment.
As small businesses join the digital revolution and become more reliant on technology, they have a growing need to ensure that they have a disaster recovery plan in place to help them restore quickly and to a later point in time. By far the most effective recovery solutions are cloud-based, using the latest cloud backup services – something that is even more effective when the company has already migrated its IT to the cloud.