Implementing a sound business continuity program is like having insurance. You hope to never have to use it, but, if you do, it's there. This article will explore important components of business continuity for potential technology disruptions in small and medium sized businesses in the food and beverage industry.
A business continuity program has two related elements. The first component is "disaster recovery" which consists of disaster preparedness and emergency response. Disaster recovery enables you to recover files after a disaster such as a fire or computer virus. The second component is "business recovery" which involves maintaining operations and producing output despite a system crash or power outage, allowing the organization to continue operations. When operations are disrupted for a lengthy period, it puts a business in jeopardy.
The most important thing an organization needs to consider when setting up a business continuity program is to establish a disaster recovery budget based on what your company can afford. You may want 24/7 disaster recovery up-time, but your funds may not allow for that. One way to assess an appropriate budget is to ask: how much does it cost for us to lose one hour of work across the entire organization?
At one manufacturer, it was calculated that it was in the $100,000 per hour range. There were 1,000 system users, so the cost was exorbitant for the company to be without its data for even one hour. Once the cost of downtime to the organization is determined, the next step is to assess how frequent downtime could happen within a year. There are many options in terms of speed of recovery which affect cost. IT infrastructure companies specializing in business continuity can assist your organization with advice on these options and setting a disaster recovery budget. The IT firm would plan and set up a business continuity program, including replicating a company's servers to a cloud infrastructure.
Today, the majority of applications could be replicated to the cloud via the internet, reducing costs considerably. For example, depending on data volume and other factors, using the cloud could cost less than $2,000 a month.
Another important consideration that could impact the budget is to accurately determine the value of having immediate access to company data. For some businesses, rapid access to the data is critical. In other cases, businesses might be able to survive two or three days without access to core data. If this is the case, they may want to replicate their data to back-up tapes or another medium. The food and beverage industry generally requires a short recovery period in order to manage the completion of orders in process, supplier deliveries and spoilage issues.
Tape is one of the less expensive back-up solutions, however there is more manual intervention required when you need to access the data. You also want to store the tapes and back-ups in a safe spot — not in your own building. The tapes could be stored in a bank vault nearby. Alternately, there are companies that will pick up your current set of back-up tapes and drop off another set of tapes at your office weekly.
If the organization would like to move to a more automated backup solution, the next step is to replicate their data to another location or the cloud via the internet. This way, if you have to restore a file, it's as easy as launching the web interface, navigating to the folder and click restore the file to its original location. Restoring files from tape generally will take more time and effort as you may need to recall tapes, load them into your tape drive and then restore the file you need.
Replicating to the cloud is popular because internet connections are faster. One disadvantage to replicating to the cloud is that you are moving data back and forth through the internet with what we call "the pipe." The data is encrypted, so it is generally safe from hacking. If you do not have a large enough pipe for the amount of data you would like to back up, the replication process becomes very slow.
Depending on the size of your pipe to the internet, you can move a certain amount of data per hour. If this is happening during a workday, employees are using bandwidth, which makes it less available for the replication. If you are looking to fully replicate your servers, then you need a substantial pipe to push this data through. That bandwidth can get costly. If you have access to a fibre network, currently costs for the pipe are approximately $700 per month for a 100-megabit connection.
While there is a cost to implementing a disaster recovery system, it is really an investment. A quick recovery period downtime following a disaster is important for allowing work-in-process orders to be fulfilled, ensuring your supply chain is under control and maintaining your reputation as a reliable company.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.