Last fall businesses across the Eastern Coast of the United States were heavily impacted by the devastating effect of Hurricane Sandy. For several of our customers the storm underscored the importance of establishing a defined business continuity process. While the safety of people is always the first priority, the impact of similar events on government services, corporations and small businesses was tremendous and needs to be addressed long term.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate in Symantec’s CIO Forum in New York City that preceded the NASDAQ Closing Bell Ceremony. At the event, Symantec customers and partners discussed the importance of ensuring business continuity, specifically in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. These professionals were responsible for business critical data located directly in the storm’s path and needed to ensure it would remain secure and available.
Some of the hard-won lessons they shared include:
- Preplanning is the most important part: To use a sports analogy, teams usually walk the field before a game to get comfortable with the environment and anticipate what to expect. The same holds true with business continuity and disaster recovery. Pre-planning and practice is critical because by the time a disaster strikes it is too late to properly mitigate its impact on your business.
- Failover fast: If you have warning that a major storm is brewing, take a proactive approach and execute your disaster recovery as early as possible. By putting the right technology in place, you can free up your resources to focus on the human element—ensuring the right staff is in the right place to assist with urgent IT requests as needed.
- Be opportunistic: The best time to get internal stakeholders to commit to this sort of plan is immediately following a disaster. The possibility of downtime and its repercussions will be fresh in the decision makers’ minds. While it’s important to identify short-term and long-term fixes, it’s easiest to get people’s attention when their hair is on fire.
It goes without saying that hurricanes aren’t the only natural disasters businesses should be concerned with. In 2012, there were nearly 1,000 natural disasters categorized as catastrophic including earthquakes, tornadoes and floods. And unfortunately, they aren’t slowing down. The number of weather events that inflict at least $1 billion in damage has risen from an average of two a year in the 1980s to more than 10 a year since 2010 (source: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).
Keep in mind disasters don’t always come in the form of floods and earthquakes. Any event that can cause a system outage is a threat. In reality your business is more likely to be affected by the accidental deletion of data, the crashing of a disk drive, a power outage, or the corruption of data by a virus or cyberattack. IT environments are also more complicated than ever before. It’s now a hybrid of physical and virtual environments across endpoints, data centers and storage environments.
During Sandy, Symantec was able to help several customers move vital company information from their physical servers to virtual servers in a secure location, while maintaining high availability. It is essential that whether it is a natural disaster or other potential IT outage, organizations keep their data secure by having a business continuity plan in place and a solution that addresses multiple platforms and is intelligent and efficient.