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How do companies need to adjust their business continuity planning?

16 September 2013

The push for companies to seek out business continuity solutions has grown substantially in recent years, particularly in the wake of large storm systems afflicting the East Coast over the past two summers. With the threat of natural disasters and other business interruptions constantly looming, organizations have recognized that they can no longer go without continuity solutions that allow them to keep systems running and avoid data loss. For many businesses, however, business continuity planning extends to moving backup data offsite and little more.

To ensure truly uninterrupted operations and avoid lost revenue, companies may need slightly more comprehensive business continuity services. Three important components of business continuity that are frequently ignored include:

1. Consider all business processes: Backing up business data and having a contingency plan to protect hardware are obvious steps in preparing for a disaster, but these two elements of recovery are not enough to ensure everything continues as normal, according to Dan Shannon, senior vice president at core banking processor FIS. Speaking with Bank Info Security, Shannon explained that companies need to build in continuity for all their business processes, particularly customer-facing applications, as these will be among the most pressing needs in the wake of a disaster.

"You really have to consider: What are the touchpoints you have with your customer?" Shannon told Bank Info Security.

Failing to keep customer-facing operations running smoothly can be damaging to a company's brand, he added. The ability to keep business systems operating as usual in the wake of a disaster, on the other hand, can keep revenue steady and shore up the company's reputation as it works to bring other data and systems back online.

2. Skip the cheap option and adopt a comprehensive solution: In a column for Baseline, Ray Osburn, IT director for Seattle Goodwill, explained how a 2006 flood cost his organization $1.5 million in damages - more than 2 percent of its annual revenues. In response, the company looked for disaster recovery solutions, and it settled on the cheapest option. However, the provider didn't offer an acceptable file server data protection solution, sending Seattle Goodwill searching for a safer alternative that would keep business critical systems online, enabling both office functions and in-store sales to continue even if the business headquarters' network went down. By replicating data to and running mission critical applications from an offsite managed data center, the company now is able to guarantee its systems will remain functional even if its main office experiences a disaster.

3. Don't assess business continuity based on ROI: While there's always pressure to justify new spending based on ROI, doing so with business continuity is a dangerous game, according to BC consultant Denis Goulet. While it's important to keep costs reasonable, BC shouldn't be treated so much as something that will inevitably pay off as something that businesses cannot afford to ignore.

"ROI is a trap," Goulet told CSO Online. "Everyone struggles to find something to say to the finance people, but that's a trap. Business continuity is part of the cost of doing business. We won't throw millions at this if we don't have to, but if we have to, we will."

Business continuity planning is complex, and it can be tempting to simply go with the first solution offered or the cheapest one available. However, companies can substantially improve their ability to actually remain operational in the wake of an outage by working with an experienced business continuity services provider such as UbiStor.

Brought to you by UbiStor, Inc. leaders in data & system protection, recovery, hosting and infrastructure solutions.

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