Digital risk management strategy used to be a luxury reserved for huge corporations, but in today’s business climate, even small businesses need to understand digital risks and set up a plan to protect themselves.
“Today’s society is completely based on digital recordkeeping and digital media,” says Pervez P. Delawalla, CEO of net2EZ Managed Data Centers, Inc. “If companies don’t have strategies in place to insure their digital lives, they are just playing with fire.”
Smart Business spoke with Delawalla about how to develop a sound digital risk management strategy and how to ensure it will work when you need it.
What are some examples of major digital risks, and how can these risks affect businesses?
One of the principal types of risk comes from those once-in-a-lifetime events, like the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Many companies were impacted by those attacks, and not just from a personal standpoint. Getting their businesses back up and running was very difficult, and companies that didn’t have digital strategies in place for data backup were at a complete loss.
Then, you have the standard risks faced by businesses on a daily basis. Data is lost through negligence, or even through unforeseeable events beyond one’s control, like flooding or fire. In California, the major player in this category is earthquakes. To mitigate that risk, a West Coast company can have servers located on the East Coast, so in the event of a catastrophic earthquake, their data and it’s high availability would be safeguarded.
Digital risk management or risk mitigation solutions used to be cost prohibitive for small businesses — but not anymore.
How can businesses protect themselves from digital risks?
There are a couple of ways that businesses can insulate themselves from these risks. The first step is looking at where their digital life exists, so to speak, for both their company and their personal data. That will determine what type of risk exposure they have. For example, if a company decides to keep its servers on the premises, it would have its physical and digital location present in the same place. If something happens to that building, everything goes with it.
Usually, the company’s head of information technology would be responsible for recommending a disaster recovery location just for the data, which would be located away from the office space.
The best course of action is to employ the services of a disaster recovery company with the ability to provide highly redundant locations so data can be protected in the event that the physical location goes offline.
What should be covered in a digital risk management strategy? How does it interface with overall risk management strategy?
One of the issues that needs to be covered is the geographic separation between your primary location and your disaster recovery location. You don’t want your digital disaster recovery location just a couple blocks down the street from your physical location, because if there is a large-scale event, like a natural disaster of some sort, you are likely to lose both.
Another is the ‘cut over test.’ This is where both systems are run in parallel to make sure that if you needed to cut over to the disaster recovery location that it would function in precisely the same way the primary location does. It’s like doing a fire safety drill. The frequency of the drill is determined by the company’s industry.
From that point, you start looking at the exact goal for the business in question. If the company is in an industry where going offline for a few days does not pose any real risk to business, that company would require a different strategy than a financial trading firm for whom a few minutes offline would be detrimental.
The strategy should be based upon and built around the business type. For example, a trading firm would want a disaster recovery location that is a few hundred miles from its physical location, and would ideally conduct a monthly or weekly full cut over test.
What should businesses look for in a digital risk management and insurance company or policy?
The stability of the company is important, as is its knowledge base, but the facility itself is the most important part. Look at where the servers are housed; confirm that the facility is SAS 70 certified. That designation means that independent auditors have certified the company’s policies and procedures.
Also, check how redundant the facility’s backup system is. Does it have at least one standby generator to back up the primary generators that provide power? Look into the integration and configuration of the cooling systems, as well.
Those are all integral parts to ensuring the entire facility works in unison. You may be spending a lot of money on disaster recovery, but if one of those systems is offline, your solution could still fail when you need it the most. It’s like installing smoke detectors throughout your house, but not testing them; you are taking an unnecessary and dangerous risk.
How can businesses ensure their digital risk management strategy is working?
The key is running those drills. Systems change all the time, and a company’s digital systems will never remain the same, particularly given the pace of the society we have now. Updates are constant, whether from the software tech side or the hardware tech side, so it is very important to run those drills on a frequent basis in accordance with your type of industry.
Also, look at your checklist and conduct audits. Make sure you have selected a provider that is SAS 70 certified and has good systems, and remember that just because everything checks out doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go over that checklist and run those drills again next year.
Pervez P. Delawalla is CEO of net2EZ Managed Data Centers, Inc. Reach him at (310) 426-6701 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Insights Risk Management & Insurance Services is brought to you by Millennium Corporate Solutions
Technology moves fast, and advances in information technologies, along with changes in work force behaviors, are driving the need for faster, higher-bandwidth data solutions.
Businesses that want to stay ahead of the pack need tailored, fast data solutions.
“It’s critical for businesses today to map their current and future data needs and to partner with a data provider that can offer customized access solutions,” says Jitesh Bhayani, vice president of marketing for the Midwest Region, Time Warner Cable Business Class.
As data-intensive activities such as online collaboration, video viewing and Web conferencing grow more prominent, businesses need the bandwidth to support these functions. Clients, vendors and colleagues expect to communicate with businesses online, and your systems need to have the speed to make it happen.
Smart Business spoke with Bhayani about innovations in data and bandwidth and what opportunities are available for businesses.
What data trends are driving the need for more bandwidth?
Forecasts show that business Internet traffic will double between 2009 and 2014, and in 2010, Internet traffic demand among businesses in North America grew by 17.2 percent. The way employees work today in a Web-connected world is driving this demand.
There’s an emphasis on continued collaboration and companies are interacting online with customers through platforms such as e-commerce. Work environments are highly dependent on being connected to the Internet — a Forrester Research survey revealed that 72 percent of employees use a Web browser hourly or daily. Over time, a business can easily exceed its available bandwidth, and the answer is a higher-speed data solution.
What technologies give businesses greater capability to collaborate online?
Internet-based technology and software have advanced so that businesses can collaborate more readily with satellite offices, vendors, partners and customers. The days of passing paper are over as the ease and speed of sharing documents electronically increases and businesses recognize the cost effectiveness and environmental friendliness of using Internet-based tools for collaboration.
For example, with Web conferencing, employees do not have wasted travel expenses and unproductive time spent en route to a meeting location. Web conferencing is an alternative to in-person meetings, and it’s an ideal tool for conducting product demonstrations or service calls with customers.
Meanwhile, cloud computing with the use of Web-based business software frees up employees to work anywhere, anytime and still be connected to the office. These tools are often called Software-As-a-Service (SaaS), and include e-mail, calendar, project management and accounting systems. Basically, a business rents the amount of the application it needs and accesses it through an Internet connection. As more businesses use cloud computing, these firms will require higher-speed solutions and more bandwidth.
How does social media impact a business’s need for higher-speed solutions?
With the rapid growth of social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, businesses have new opportunities to reach more people and respond to customers more effectively. They can share their corporate environment through blogs. They can use social networks to connect with potential clients, build relationships with peers, vendors or prospects, and get the word out about their products and services.
Looking ahead, social media will integrate even more software applications and advanced Web services, which will put more of a strain on existing data solutions. Businesses need to assess whether they will have enough speed and bandwidth to accommodate emerging technology. Now is a good time to consult with a data solutions provider and take an inventory of what your business’s current data capabilities will allow. Do you have room to grow? What are your plans for technology integration? Discuss your current and future needs with a provider that can act as a partner and customize a solution.
How can a business customize data services and add bandwidth?
The amount of bandwidth you need will depend on the number of employees in your company and the Web-based applications you use. Take stock of your current business situation. What high-speed data challenges do you face as you prepare for the future? What are your current bandwidth levels? A data solutions professional can help you understand what tier of power and speed you will need for optimal business performance.
What options are available for power and speed?
There are several tiers of power and speed, so first consider what your businesses needs on a day-to-day basis. Then think about goals for the future. Will you do more cloud computing with Web-based software programs for accounting or project management? Are you ramping up your video conferencing to avoid windshield time? Will more employees work outside of the office from satellite locations or home offices?
For businesses that use e-mail and basic Web applications, broadband Internet access can provide ample bandwidth and speed. Businesses that do more data sharing and use Web-based applications and require advanced connectivity are better served by wideband Internet access. For businesses that need a dedicated, scalable solution to meet growth and security requirements, there is dedicated Internet access. Start by talking with a solutions provider who can explain how each of these options works, and help you understand what level of power and speed you need to accomplish your business goals today and in the future.
Jitesh Bhayani is vice president of marketing for the Midwest Region of Time Warner Cable Business Class. Contact a Time Warner Cable Business Class account consultant at (877) 407-4260 to discuss your communications needs.