We all know that “oh no” moment when the document you painstakingly perfected for hours—but forgot to save—is suddenly gone because of a power outage. It’s very, very frustrating.
Now, imagine that instead of one document, it’s all your business’s data. You’ve just gone from frustration to complete devastation.
Losing data and not being able to get it back can be disastrous, for individuals as well as for businesses big and small.
- Thirty-five percent of companies lose data and access to at least one business-critical app after a natural or man-made disruption.
- Forty-two percent of ransomware victims are not fully able to recover their data.
- Forty percent of small businesses are forced to close as a result of a disaster.
Yet, despite those statistics, 58 percent of small businesses are not prepared for data loss.
These are scary statistics, but there are ways to safeguard your business. Business continuity technology is one important type of tool that can help you forestall an attack.
Business continuity technology comprises software tools that can help businesses prevent data loss, recover lost data, and comply with legal requirements.
Unfortunately, many small businesses lack the awareness or expertise to choose the right tool or set of tools. In fact, 51 percent of small business owners are unaware of risks associated with data loss.
Small businesses must build a business continuity strategy custom suited to their needs to prevent data loss and downtime due to disasters. If they don’t, they risk damaging their reputation, crippling their business, and losing up to $17,000 per minute.
This article will explain three technologies that small businesses must consider in their business continuity strategy in the short and long term.
Don’t wait to establish a continuity strategy for your small business
According to Gartner, “Business continuity is a broad disaster recovery approach.”
It includes planning how to manage workspaces, IT systems, network connections, applications, and other crucial business aspects in the event of disasters such as earthquakes, floods, cyberattacks, etc.
If you think a broad disaster recovery approach is something that only large businesses need, think again.
Large firms have diversified income sources, yet they still fear the threat of data loss from even just one line of their business. Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) like yours, which may rely on as few as one or two products for revenue, have much more to lose and may even be forced to shut down in the absence of data backups and contingency plans.
The need for a business continuity strategy is, therefore, more pressing for small businesses. The good news is, your business continuity strategy won’t be as complex as that of an enterprise organization. You need to establish a simple and custom-made business continuity strategy and plan.
Cloud data backup with continuous data protection is your first step
Cloud data backup tools with continuous data protection (CDP) capabilities replicate changes to your data continuously. They save copies to the cloud for quick access in case of an emergency.
Continuous data protection (CDP) is the technique that allows you to store a copy of your data by replicating it at the block level—meaning the tool doesn’t backup or replicate the whole file every time, only the changes. This differs from traditional backups, which create an entire copy of your file every time. CDP is faster and enables you to do backups every few minutes.
Cloud data backup service providers offer CDP as well as broader capabilities such as secure access control and consistent recovery points from internal and external threats. Most cloud infrastructure service providers offer backup services.
According to one survey, 44 percent of IT professionals use cloud infrastructure services for data backup.
Cloud data backup is a widely adopted technology. Small businesses that have over 1 TB of data and are yet to institute a backup or business continuity plan must consider adopting this practice in the near-to-short term.
Without continuous cloud data backup, you risk losing the data you require for smooth daily operations. You may also face regulatory issues if you lose the personal data of customers.
Why cloud data backup is a ‘must have’ technology
Cloud backup replicates files and reduces data loss.
Small businesses have similar security and business concerns to enterprises—data loss, cyberattacks, ransomware, data breaches, power outages, and natural disasters. In fact, small businesses are at a higher risk because they do not have as many security controls.
As a small business, you may not have the budget to engage with expert security professionals or have a security consultant on board. But, you can always adopt a software tool that is within your budget to protect your data.
With 62 percent of small businesses operating in the cloud and that number growing, cloud storage is a natural choice for small businesses. It saves them from investing in costly hardware and employing professionals who can operate and maintain the storage servers.
There are more benefits to CDP and cloud-data back in addition to being able to restore lost data and reduce downtime.
- Protection against cyberattacks such as ransomware. Instead of having to pay the attacker a ransom to unfreeze your data, you can instead restore the most recent backed-up version of your data and continue working.
- Supports frequent backups with minimal impact on server performance. By backing up only incremental changes, CDP ensures that the whole process is faster and does not affect server performance. You can also back up more frequently, since it can be done faster, improving your recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO).
- Self-service tools reduce your IT admin burden. Most cloud data backup solutions offer self-service capabilities and do not take up as many IT resources or as much time.
- Extra charges. You must look the all the costs associated with cloud data backup. This includes additional charges to restore data, penalties on exceeding bandwidth, and fees for other services such as backup reporting.
- Bandwidth limitations. Depending on bandwidth availability, your cloud provider may assign you a threshold capacity for data transfer. This can impact your backup strategies.
Disaster-recovery-as-a-service minimizes downtime
Backing up data is only the first step in your business continuity plan. You will also need to help you retrieve all that data and get your systems up and running again. That’s where a DRaaS (disaster-recovery-as-a-service) solution helps.
DRaaS is the replication and hosting of server information by a third party to provide failover in the event of a man-made or natural disaster.
DRaaS includes several components including:
- Continuous data protection (CDP).
- Offsite backup product.
- Disaster recovery (DR) plan.
- A vault, which securely stores any item and applies permission rights to sensitive data.
While a cloud backup solution provider is only responsible for data consistency and restoring backed up copies of data, DRaaS providers support failover processing.
DRaaS solutions help organizations continue operating during a disaster, providing computational resources provided by the vendor and backed up data until your IT environment is repaired.
Industries such as financial services and health care, which need very quick recovery times of just a few minutes, must consider using DRaaS services. DRaaS is a mature technology with many product offerings on the market.
SMBs can build their business continuity strategy starting with data backup in the cloud, and move to a DRaaS solution when they feel the need for failover support and a shorter recovery time.
Why DRaaS is a ‘mature’ technology
DRaaS keeps your most crucial operations running.
Some of your IT functions and data are more important than others, and you need them to function 24/7. For example, if you are an eCommerce retailer, you want your website and POS systems to be up all day and night, every day of the year.
DRaaS solutions help get these systems and related data to function without disruption. They ensure that in the case of any disruption, you can just download the backed up data onto your system and continue business as usual or opt to failover processing to the vendor’s cloud.
- Shorter time to resume operations. DRaaS reduces your RTO further and helps you resume operations sooner.
- Save money. By opting for cloud-based recovery options, you don’t have to run expensive in-house disaster recovery programs. Your faster recovery time will also ensure that your business does not lose out on revenue.
- You’ll have expert help and guidance. Your DRaaS provider will be able to guide you through every step in your recovery process. They’ll also update you about new developments and advise you on creative ways to back up and recover data.
- Lack of proper communication/agreement with the DRaaS provider. If you do not state your data recovery requirements thoroughly, there may be a gap between the services you get and what you wanted. Discuss your needs clearly with the DRaaS providers that you have shortlisted.
- Untrained employees. Along with implementing a DRaaS solution, you must also train your employees on how to handle emergencies and disasters. They should be made aware of critical components of the business that need to be recovered most urgently.
BCMP solutions provide all-round business continuity capabilities
Business continuity management program (BCMP) solutions provide you with the capabilities to build a robust continuity strategy. They support all phases of your business continuity lifecycle, from planning to execution.
These solutions are best adopted when your organization has already adopted some components of disaster recovery, such as data backups and continuous data protection, and you are ready to build a complete business continuity program.
BCMP solutions provide tools for:
- Risk assessment
- Business impact analysis
- Dependency mapping
- Recovery plan management
- What-if modeling
- Crisis management
- Program management metrics and analysis
Financial services and marketing organizations with complex business operations can benefit the most from business continuity management (BCM) applications, and are often early adopters of the technology. But, BCMP solutions are still in the nascent stages of adoption, and SMBs might want to wait until these technologies mature and offer easier do-it-yourself capabilities.
At this point, you may not even need the advanced features BCMPs provide. Unless you have a very specialized need, you’d be better served by investing your resources in simpler tools such as cloud data backup and DRaaS—at least for the time being.
How BCMP solutions are ‘transformational’
BCMP solutions help build a reusable business continuity plan.
According to one study, 48 percent of small businesses operate without any type of business continuity plan. However, many small businesses are waking up to the need for effective disaster planning and business continuity measures after being hit hard by hurricanes Harvey and Irma in 2017.
The increase in cyberattacks is accelerating the need for BCMP solutions and according to Gartner’s “Hype Cycle for Business Continuity Management and IT Resilience 2017” (content available to Gartner clients), many SMBs are increasingly looking into the technology.
- Comprehensive analysis of your disaster-preparedness levels. Helps develop an up-to-date and accessible plan for response, recovery, and restoration of IT systems.
- Enhance business resilience. Improves business operations and resilience in all business areas such as HR management, corporate actions, and daily business operations.
- Cost. Though there are many vendors that offer these tools, they can be expensive compared to other backup or DRaaS tools. Implement a BCMP solution only when you feel your business is ready to build a comprehensive business continuity plan that looks at all aspects of your business and analyzes different scenarios.
- Complex to use. BCMP solutions may be complex to implement and train your employees on. Educating them about the benefits it offers can help increase their interest.
Next steps and other recommended resources
Having a business continuity strategy may not prevent worst-case scenarios from happening, but it will increase your chances of survival.
Here are some steps you can take to build your business continuity strategy:
Recommended reading resources:
To learn more about data back-ups, data breaches and security, you can check out these resources and/or visit our Lab.
The key business continuity technologies are categorized as:
- “Must have” technology is a widely used technology that small businesses must consider adopting for critical business functions.
- “Mature technology” is offered by many vendors, and small businesses can look at implementing them in the short-to-medium term.
- “Transformational technology” is still in its nascent stages and can offer small businesses the best returns in the medium-to-long run.