How proper planning can aid your company’s recovery from a disaster

Joe Hovancak, Manager, Enterprise Ethernet Division, Comcast Business Class

The importance of disaster recovery has not changed. However, the term itself and the impact a disaster can have on your business has changed dramatically, especially now that businesses rely so heavily on technology.

“Not too long ago, a disaster could simply be defined as inclement weather,” says Joe Hovancak, manager, Enterprise Ethernet Division, Comcast Business Class. “Today, the term takes on a whole new meaning.”

Smart Business spoke with Hovancak about the changing field of disaster recovery and how to be ready when disaster strikes.

How has disaster recovery changed and how can a business develop a recovery plan?

Today’s businesses are not limited to just natural disasters, such as floods, storms and fires. There are also man-made disasters like computer viruses, sabotage, negligence, software failure, power outages, gas or chemical leaks. Those factors all have to be encompassed in disaster recovery.

Conducting business today demands a much greater reliance on technology and communications solutions. Being without either of them is significant. That is why disaster recovery plans are now a fundamental part of business to protect a company’s sensitive information and production environments from catastrophic outages and ensure that your organization stays up and running, no matter the situation.

Businesses should start by identifying the business processes that are the most critical. Then, they must determine what the impact to the business would be if those processes were interrupted or failed. For example, how much would it cost your business if you experienced an outage? You have to consider lost revenue, time to recover, any impact to your reputation and your brand and, depending on your industry, even financial penalties for noncompliance with regulatory requirements such as HIPAA, PCI and SAS70 Type II.

Once you understand how a disaster can impact your business, then you can prioritize your business processes and begin to identify the means to maintain your uptime. So if you lose utility power, do you have a contingency plan in place to failover to a back-up power source? If you lose communications do you have an alternative communication provider contracted to re-route traffic? If you experience a denial-of-service attack, do you have a back-up and recovery solution in place to recover your data?

What steps should companies have as part of their disaster recovery plan?

Develop a business continuity plan to address events that cause disruption to your business. Review and revise the plan annually as changes to the business develop. Designate a company disaster recovery coordinator to develop and implement a corporate response and recovery plan along with a current contact list of all team members. Then, distribute that list to all employees. Outline how your critical resources, e.g. power, telecommunications and computer equipment, can be restored. Again, it’s crucial to identify your critical business services to include:

  • Communications — voice and data
  • Facility — power, cooling and security
  • Administrative, product and customer support

Ensure that you have a plan in place to keep those critical services functioning. Identify an alternate work location and administrative procedures, and media communications.

Some people create a recovery plan, but then never look at it again. You have to update, test and validate the plan regularly to make sure it works. If you have an alternate carrier to cover your communications, test the failover on an annual basis to confirm they can support current bandwidth requirements.

Make sure all departments are informed about the plan and receive necessary training.

Why is backing up communications important?

As leaders in the industry, Comcast’s Doak Field, senior director, Enterprise Fiber Services, and Steve Schmitz, vice president of Business Services, drive the message of delivering superior customer experience and assisting customers with growing their business. If your communications were interrupted or if your data were compromised, can you deliver superior customer service, achieve your growth  goals and recover critical files and applications? Not backing up your communications and data can adversely impact many parts of your business, from sales to customer confidence.

What can be done to prevent a complete shutdown of communications?

You have to develop, implement, update and test your disaster recovery plan on an annual basis to avoid the loss of communications. Understand your carrier network. When looking at a backup solution, make sure you invest in a true redundant network connection. For instance, your main network carrier utilizes a Tier 1 provider and your backup carrier is a company that may brand itself as a redundant carrier, but its network rides on the same Tier 1 backbone and it resells services. You may think you are on a redundant path, but if a disaster occurs and the Tier 1 provider is affected, both connections will go down.

Make sure your primary and failover connection is from a true redundant Tier 1 provider. Many companies still rely on legacy technology, but today everyone’s business is growing faster than the speed of T1s (1.544 Mbps). Today, private fiber optic networks are providing the reliability, security and faster speeds that companies are demanding.

When looking for a partner, make sure they provide high network availability, minimal latency and low packet loss, and that they have a self-healing, redundant core network architecture. Then, if there is a break somewhere there is a true redundant route to use. Also, look for manageable services that grow with your business and provide bandwidth in flexible increments from 10 Mbps up to 10 Gbps. And one of the most important elements is to ensure that your communications partner owns and operates their network from the first to the last mile. One great place to look for true network redundancy is Comcast Ethernet Business Services.

Joe Hovancak is a manager of the South Florida Enterprise Ethernet Division with Comcast Business Class. Reach him at (954) 514-8650 or [email protected]