Avoiding disaster Featured

7:00pm EDT February 24, 2008

No one knows when a disaster might strike. Whether it’s a natural disaster, riots or a disgruntled employee erasing the computer’s hard drive, disasters can have a huge impact on your business if you are not prepared. The longer it takes to recover and get back in business, the less chance a company has of surviving.

“Disaster recovery can make or break a company, depending on its preparedness,” says Geoff Hanson, practice director-server of operations, storage and migration services at Pomeroy IT Solutions Inc. “The CEO or CFO must consider it if the business is going to be there tomorrow. If you don’t plan for disaster recovery, it could be gone. Besides yourself, you need to think about your investors, employees, customers and community, and how important your business continuance is to all of them. By positioning your company with the right plan, right equipment and right personnel, you can survive a disaster.”

Smart Business spoke with Hanson about disaster recovery processes and what companies can do to implement them.

What is the first step in disaster recovery?

You should develop a comprehensive disaster recovery plan and put it in place. A company that plans and prepares can experience minimal or no loss. Companies that are unprepared will experience a very stressful time during their recovery process.

What areas of a business should be taken into consideration?

Disasters take a wide variety of forms. Power outages, floods, fires, weather phenomenons and riots can happen at any time. Some emergencies might not harm your property directly but may make it impossible to access it for a period of time. Take into consideration power, people, facilities, air conditioning, communications and the surrounding area. Businesses depend on computers and people to run them. Evacuation, data and paper backup, processes and safety must be thought out. Every area of your business should be taken into consideration.

Who in the organization should be involved in the planning process?

All departments within the organization should have some involvement in the planning process. A point person should have responsibility for the overall plan. That person needs to make sure that all departments are involved in providing input and that each department knows what it needs to do to implement the plan. Then everyone can do their parts when disaster strikes.

Is more and better technology the only answer to disaster recovery?

More and better technology can aid in the recovery process, yet it is not the only answer. It takes a combination of the business plan and the disaster recovery plan itself, designed and implemented by key personnel utilizing the right equipment, to successfully recover from any disaster. You have personnel, customers, equipment and productivity to consider. Your plan has to spell out how you are going to recover and what equipment is needed. Remote facilities and personnel must be an integral part to the recovery time and to minimizing any disruption. Having the right-skilled resources in place with the replicated data for a company to press on with business as usual is the key. It is also very important to have space between your business and the data recovery facility. It does you no good to have your backup data system so close to your home office that a disaster can take out both.

How do you differentiate between cost and value when it comes to disaster recovery and business continuity?

First of all, cost is a dollar amount. Value is what you receive for that amount. Companies have to ask themselves how much time they can afford to be shut down. The shorter the time, the more comprehensive the plan must be. Those who plan and invest and have everything in place can recover with a minimal effect on the bottom line. How many companies went out of business because of Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina or any other disaster that comes to mind? How many of those might still be in business if they had a disaster recovery plan? What is the value of continuous operation compared to the cost of being prepared for whatever comes up?

How can you save the business money while lowering the risks?

The first step is through proper disaster recovery planning. The next is through server and storage consolidation and virtualization initiative. These tend to reduce and/or eliminate specific hardware dependencies. Companies are thus better positioned to ride out disasters with little to no loss of data, equipment or their associated business revenue streams.

GEOFF HANSON is the practice director-server of operations, storage and migration services at Pomeroy IT Solutions Inc. Reach him at (623) 551-5771 or ghanson@pomeroy.com.