Act before it’s too late

It doesn’t take a natural disaster to bring down IT operations. Companies need a disaster recovery strategy that allows them to continue working when things go wrong.

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By Staff Writer Published  October 12, 2011

It doesn’t take a natural disaster to bring down IT operations. Companies need a disaster recovery strategy that allows them to continue working when things go wrong.

A sudden event can bring down the most robust IT system at any moment. On the rare occasions when it does happen, organisations are often unable to recover key data and resume operations.

The term ‘disaster recovery’ tends to bring up images of bad weather, flash floods or fires. But in a region like the Middle East, with its relatively benign weather, hacking, data loss or system failure are equally likely causes of the kind of disaster that can take out a corporate IT system. According to Symantec’s 2011 SMB Disaster Preparedness Survey, which focused on small and medium sized businesses (SMBs), attitudes towards disaster remain almost entirely reactive.

This, despite the fact that a disaster can render a company unable to operate and jeopardise long term operations. Downtime not only costs money, it also causes annoyed customers to leave when services are unavailable.

“According to the research findings, SMBs still haven’t recognised the tremendous impact a disaster can have on their businesses. Despite warnings, it seems like many still think it can’t happen to them,” says Saurabh Arora, manager, small and medium business for MENA, Symantec. The company’s survey included 1288 small and medium businesses with five to 1000 employees and 552 customers. All regions of the world were surveyed.

Half of the respondents do not have a disaster recovery plan in place. Forty one percent said that it never occurred to them to put together a plan and 40% stated that disaster preparedness is not a priority for them.

Only half of companies surveyed back up at least 60% of their data, and less than half back up their data weekly or more frequently. Only 23% back up daily. Key data is not always backed up, either. Of those surveyed, 31% do not back up email, 21% do not back up application data, and 17% do not back up customer data.

Respondents also reported that a disaster would cause information loss. Forty-four percent of SMBs said they would lose at least 40 percent of their data in the event of a disaster.

“Disasters happen and SMBs cannot afford to risk losing their information or, more importantly, their customers’ critical information,” says Arora. “Simple planning can enable SMBs to protect their information in the event of a disaster, which in turn will help them build trust with their customers.”

Tareque Choudhury, head of security practice and professional services, MEA, BT Global Services, adds: “Organisations within the GCC tend to underestimate the likelihood of disaster striking them. It is difficult to determine how likely it is that an organisation will face disaster, but every company should have a disaster recovery plan at a minimum with thoughts on having a complete business continuity strategy.”
According to Mohamed Rizvi, manager of Information Security and Advisory Services at eHosting DataFort (eHDF), there are different types of incidents that may qualify as disasters and that may strike at different magnitudes.

“These could be site outages due to earthquakes, floods or fires; logical outages due to virus attack, memory leak or data corruption; and partial outages due to hardware failures or software failures,” he says.

Stability of IT systems has increased dramatically over recent years, along with increased awareness, yet threats do still exist mainly due to mishandling and component failures. “In this kind of a scenario, maintenance is key by providing a proper data centre environment that includes high end power and cooling systems and state-of-the-art infrastructure that is capable of withstanding disasters,” says Rizvi.

A disaster recovery strategy should encompass five key steps: processes, policies, procedures, technical arrangements and vendor arrangements. Anyone who hasn’t done so, should act now by identifying the resources that need most protection. These are the IT assets, most likely customer data and financial information, without which the company couldn’t function.

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