Small-business owners have been frequently called out for their lack of adequate disaster recovery and continuity strategies, even though the sector has come a long way in the past five years regarding fortification. A failure to go above and beyond the call of duty with respect to planning and testing can end up causing a tremendous amount of economic damage for virtually any business, and has plagued the private sector for decades.
Luckily, more effective and affordable solutions have begun to surface, allowing firms to choose from a wider variety of options that will closely align with their specific objectives, requirements and risks. In many ways, disaster recovery and continuity are yearlong demands that change alongside the shift in seasons, and the most pressing matters for entrepreneurs this month - especially those located on the coasts - are hurricanes, which cause immense damage every year.
Admittedly, the past two years have been somewhat calmer than historic data would lead one to believe, but that does not inherently mean 2015 will be smooth sailing. Even in the relatively calmer hurricane seasons of the past couple of years, businesses in a variety of regions have struggled to maintain regular operations following the floods, high winds and general carnage produced by these storms.
If you want to see just how hard it can be to overcome a major hurricane, check out this two-minute video from The New York Times that follows the efforts of a Brooklyn-based business that was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy:
As always, knowledge is power, and looking back at the hurricane season last year can provide some insights into what entrepreneurs should be doing to protect themselves through November. Remember, hurricane season begins in May, but peaks around the end of summer and the first few weeks of fall in most areas, meaning now is the time to get moving on more thorough and progressive disaster recovery and business continuity strategies.
ABC News reported that the Atlantic region saw eight named storms, six relatively normal hurricanes and two tempests that were classified as major given their Category 3 or higher rankings. It is worth noting here that the source pointed toward the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's data, which revealed the number of named storms was lower than initial forecasts, while major and actual hurricanes outpaced the predictions in 2014.
Additionally, although this should be common knowledge by now, forecasting the weather - especially for such a large region and over a long period of time - is not the easiest nor the most precise science out there. Meteorologists who are right about the weekly forecast aired on the news are somewhat legendary, as well as few and far between.
Putting too much trust into these predictions can land a business in hot water, as disaster recovery and continuity planning is founded on the idea of protecting against the most unlikely of threats. Still, ABC News pointed to Hurricane Arthur in 2014 as being the only tropical storm to impact mainland America in 2014, but it did plenty of damage to the state of North Carolina with high winds and torrential downpours.
The news provider added that the Eastern Pacific saw the highest number of named storms in more than two decades, and there is no sign that the states there will enjoy any respite this year.
Depending upon where a business is located, the best practices of mitigating hurricane-related threats will be a bit different, and understanding the specific types of risks involved is the first step toward crafting a strong strategy. Remember, the best practices of disaster recovery and continuity are widely shared by federal agencies, managed service providers and others, but will only represent a strong foundation and set of guiding principles.
Best-practice frameworks will not cover the unique and specific requirements and objectives of every business, and it is up to entrepreneurs to adapt these insights in such a way that aligns with their needs. When it comes to hurricane season, companies in Florida, coastal Georgia and nearby states will need to ensure that their main operating facilities are properly protected against natural threats such as flooding and high winds.
One example is related to data center management, as a major storm that knocks out power can quickly lead to loss of information and mission-critical systems when the firm has not backed up its apps and storage environments. Cloud computing and virtualization technology can go a long way toward buffering a company's protection against these types of issues, while also allowing the firm to operate normally even when the physical facility has been compromised.
The trick is to know the risks - all of them, even those that are more unlikely - and then intelligently align deployments such as cloud backup and machine virtualization with those threats. This will often be a more seamless and efficient process when companies have the right support structures in place.
Do not go it alone
Two minds will often be better than one, and this is especially true when discussing highly complex matters such as IT management in times of disruptive disasters. Before hurricane season begins to pick up pace, small-business owners should be looking into their own capabilities and honestly identifying where more expertise and advanced support are needed to properly handle disaster recovery and continuity demands.
"When in doubt, leverage an MSP."
When in doubt, leveraging the solutions and support of a trusted managed service provider will be the best option, as well as the most affordable, as this will ensure that the strategies are properly crafted and executed upon in real time. By choosing an MSP that offers unified communications and cloud computing technologies, business leaders will be better positioned to enhance their general IT functionality while also boosting resilience to outages and disruptions brought on by natural and man-made disasters.