Ensuring Business Continuity During Chaotic Weather

Rob CarterAustin HerringtonBy Austin Herrington and Rob Carter

Severe weather has the potential to wreak havoc on business operations — disrupting critical technology, limiting travel, even shutting down offices. Some of your customers likely learned that the hard way this winter. Maintaining employees’ routines during any severe weather event, from “Snowmaggedon” to flooding to hurricanes, takes planning time and specialized expertise. It’s an ideal way for partners to add real value for customers.

Consider a situation where severe weather cuts employees off from the physical office. A 2013 Aberdeen Group research study pegged the cost of one hour of downtime at $8,000 for a small company and nearly $700,000 for large enterprises. With that much money on the table, resuming normal operations in a matter of hours, not days, is essential.

Most IT teams recognize the need for a solid disaster-recovery plan, but the cost of provisioning a standby data center has been prohibitive, never mind keeping data replicated. The cloud has changed all that; in fact, cloud-based compute, data backup, and storage services make BC/DR much less costly and way more flexible. Solutions providers whose customers are resistant to cloud often find disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) the ideal entry point.

The main tenet of business continuity is building resilience into the organization’s core applications. DRaaS is a viable and cost-effective way to do just that. A disaster-recovery expert or MSP helps develop comprehensive plans and recovery procedures. In the event of a disaster, the MSP executes those procedures on behalf of the business, allowing for quick and seamlessly failover.

In today’s competitive world, the time saved could mean the difference between a business’ survival and failure. 

4 DRaaS Selling Points

True cloud-based disaster recovery comprises a fully hosted and managed solution that offers replication through the use of virtualized recovery servers. While this sounds like traditional DR, the difference is significant. In cloud-based DRaaS, the MSP is fully responsible for replication and redundancy capabilities, as critical data is maintained within the cloud data center. A company’s servers and business-critical data can be restored almost immediately following a disaster. The costs and complexity associated with real-world testing of disaster recovery plans are much lower as well.

Many times a customer will ask if the replication and redundancy benefits of DRaaS truly warrant a jump to the cloud. Here are three areas to discuss:

  • RPO: Conventional DR solutions typically are limited to a 24-hour recovery-point objective (RPO). Unless the customer has advanced (and expensive) data replication, additions and changes to data made by employees within the 24 hours previous to the disaster may be lost. In contrast, cloud-based DRaaS can provide a variable RPO of as little as 15 minutes with application consistency, dramatically lessening the potential for data loss.
  • Security: MSPs are often asked how the security of cloud-based DRaaS stacks up against that of traditional disaster recovery. The answer depends on the credentials and reliability of the MSP. Cloud-based services must be managed and operated at (at least) equivalent levels to enterprise systems, meaning data must be properly encrypted both in motion and at rest, and the IT infrastructure must be adequately secured from the latest cyber threats. Without conducting in-depth research, a business could end up with a provider that can’t meet security standards, creating additional risk for security breaches. Or, it could end up with better security than could be achieved in-house.
  • Cost: Another valid question is around the costs associated with DRaaS versus traditional in-house DR. The fact is, disaster recovery is an afterthought for most companies, so setting up or improving any program will take some budget commitment. On one hand, purchasing, installing, and managing on-premises BC/DR hardware and software means the majority of the cost is upfront capital expenditure, rather than a fixed, recurring operating expense. However, the benefit of outsourcing DRaaS is that customers pay only for what they need, when they need it. And less downtime means less lost revenue.
  • Communications: Most businesses associate DRaaS solutions, whether premises- or cloud-based, with servers and data, but let’s not forget about complementary technologies. An MSP could, for example, bundle in a unified communications solution, guaranteeing seamless internal and external communications in case of a disaster. With the right UC system, employees can collaborate with team members via email, instant messaging, conference calling, even videoconferencing. And, interactions with customers during inclement weather situations are improved. Cloud-based UC-as-a-service mean the office can be anywhere. Calls can be routed to a mobile device or home phone, and outgoing calls will appear as the same familiar number that customers have come to know — your primary business number.

A great question to ask clients when gauging preparedness is: “Would the same level of work and quality of communication still exist if your main office location was compromised?”

If they can’t confidently answer “yes,” their business continuity plan may need a refresh. That’s an opportunity for trusted partners to help their clients weather anything Mother Nature may dish out.

Austin Herrington is the director of enterprise and CPE product marketing for Windstream. Herrington oversees Windstream’s enterprise product strategy and roadmap. Rob Carter is vice president of data center marketing at Windstream and is responsible for the planning and development of data center, managed hosting and cloud computing solutions.

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