It isn’t a new fact that Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity are among the top concerns for IT managers when it comes to meeting both business and regulatory requirements. Not only that, but for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME), it is a key contention point that ensures they can remain competitive against larger, more established firms. Traditionally, business continuity for SMEs is satisfied by hosting critical servers in a highly available data center with components that have some level of redundancy, and some degree of off-site data retention. However, disaster recovery essentially requires geographical dispersion and some capability to quickly recover crucial systems at a separate facility. This time requirement, commonly referred to as recovery time objective (RTO) is what adds complexity to a data, server and network designs. The point of data recovery, which is referred to as the recovery point objective (RPO) and is defined as the extent of replication and recovery of data in a secondary or additional facilities. The complexity of design necessary to support a reasonable RTO and the costs that can be associated with establishing and maintaining a reasonable RPO often are economically prohibitive and the process to establish these capabilities can be overwhelming to an already burdened SME IT department.
The function of an IT department in a SME is to keep systems running and provide customer and user satisfaction on a smaller budget than larger businesses in the same market. Very often, disaster recovery needs within small businesses are met with arrangements that might satisfy the needs of an auditor but would be realistically far too difficult to execute in an actual emergency. Additionally, the business’ disaster recovery requirements are reduced to to audit capability and rarely provide a true answer to the risk of a long term outage that could provide goodwill and brand value to the firm.
My personal experience is that in both SME’s and enterprise firms nearly 80% of organization’s that satisfy the disaster requirements while being audited would not be able to execute the technology components of their plans effectively when faced with an actual disastrous event. This is often due to the fat that outside resources are brought in to put together the disaster recovery plan while very little is done on a on-going basis to verify that the various pieces are still accurate. The reason that a lot of these plans fail to be regularly updated is that while SME IT Managers know that DR plans are vital, they feel like they don’t have the time, resources or expertise to truly create a resilient plan for their critical systems.
Managed Services and Cloud technologies are changing how IT managers are viewing the process of satisfying this requirement. Those organizations whose leaders have looked toward the inherent expertise that accompanies highly customized cloud services along with managed systems expertise, project management and disaster recovery planning expertise, have found that the time to build a fully functional and capable DR environment not only saves time and money, but also provide risk abatement for brand and goodwill erosion in the case of an actual disaster. Further, these IT managers are finding that not only can audit requirements be satisfied, they no longer have to deal with yearly testing requirement that involves what amounts to an effective shutdown of all competing priorities during the preparation and testing process.
In short, hosted DR makes DR testing and auditing a non-issue and it saves dramatically in operational expense. This also provides for a competitive advantage to SMEs that want to have the same capabilities as larger and less agile competitors without breaking the bank, or worse, dealing with CEO sticker shock for DR servers and devices that rarely provide a return on investment.
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