Disasters come in many forms and happen unexpectedly, sometimes at the most inopportune times. They can be flash fires, massive storms, floods, power outages, hazardous spills, hacks, viruses or acts of terrorism, just to name a few. They can wreak havoc on any small business operations, and the destruction of records provides a lethal blow to business continuity.

According to the  2013/2014 Information Governance Benchmarking Survey by Cohasset Associates, 30% of respondents felt that their organization had a mature integration of information management with business continuity, disaster recovery and crisis management.

So what are forward-thinking SMBs doing to protect their information and business investments during these times of crisis? What are the trends in Disaster Recovery?

  1. The immediate focus is on business continuity

It is important to know in advance which functions are most important to keep running. Customer service should have priority over outbound sales calls, for instance. With regard to data, you can ask yourself “How much data can I afford to lose?”  Or you could ask “What is the maximum period for which data can be lost? Is it one hour or one week?”

Using this timeframe, SMBs are making Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs) and backing up data at the appropriate intervals, in essence taking “snapshots” of the data. For more sensitive data, Continuous Data Protection (CDP) can be enabled by updating a target every time a change is made.

Another task is to identify the time needed to recover important data and functions. This leads to the creation of Recovery Time Objectives (RTO). If the RTO is several weeks, there is less pressure on DR processes.

But if the RTO is a couple of hours, you need faster recovery. When bandwidth is a consideration, each workload can be quiesced (kept inactive) until servers are fully restored. They can then be restarted.

  1. More and more businesses are turning to the cloud for DR

IT spending is moving toward the cloud. According to a ComputerWeekly survey, some 62% of responding companies are using cloud security technologies now, are about to use them or are evaluating them.

As part of this trend, virtualization is becoming more prevalent – for servers as well as desktops – and ensuring adequate storage and backup for virtual environments continues to be a Disaster Recovery strategy.

Many companies are using hybrid cloud disaster recovery, replicating both on-premise and offsite data centers.  Each server is backed up as a virtual machine image. This image is stored on a local, standby server and also moved to the cloud provider’s database. Critical servers can be run from the cloud until production servers can be restarted and synchronized with the cloud.

Typically, each cloud service provider has a unique pricing model, but the total monthly cost usually includes some combination of the following:

  • A monthly subscription fee
  • The amount of Internet bandwidth used
  • The amount of storage space needed
  • The number of virtual processors

Disaster recovery has other costs as well, including relocation, equipment rental, furniture, telecommunications and business losses from any associated downtimes. SMBs should have an inventory of all current assets for insurance and any contingency assets needed for DR budgeting.

  1. Digital and social media provide instant communications

In years past, email was a prime vehicle for communications. But today, there are more immediate and effective ways to alert those affected by a disaster.

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter provide the means for companies to disseminate information to employees, stockholders and investors. Social media also provides an effective platform for employees to interact on projects vital to business continuity. There are many project management platforms that facilitate the coordination of business essentials.

Mobile devices like laptops, tablets and smart phones are all being used to facilitate communications while in DR mode.

  1. More businesses are using “Disaster Recovery as a Service “ (DRaaS)

There are many companies that provide DR as a turnkey service, offering virtual servers and cloud storage as well as the expertise to help SMBs create the DR plan and guide them through the DR process when needed.  Whenever disaster strikes, SMBs do not have to face it alone.

DRaaS has many advantages, including the backup of all cloud applications and data while serving as the secondary or backup server when the primary server is in repair. Since it is cloud-based, DRaaS can replicate all servers regardless of location.

In addition, DRaaS can be used to replicate an on-premise system on the cloud, and then the local system can be tested and further developed.

DRaaS is device and system agnostic, so it is not tied to any one platform. And it is scalable to back up small or large amounts of data and workloads depending on user needs.

Other techniques work, too

There are many ways to handle DR, from simple mirroring to multi-tiered virtualization.  Each SMB must find the solution appropriate to its own business. And all SMBs should have a DR plan in place.

  • Redundant or mirror servers can be set up in offsite locations, using storage area network (SAN) technology
  • As an alternative to the cloud, data can be backed up via the Internet through the use of iSCSI (Internet Small Computer System Interface), which uses devices at multiple locations to move data back and forth. This technique now runs on any IP-based network.
  • DR plans should be created and reviewed annually and tested every two years

In summary

SMBs are creating formal DR plans, testing DR techniques on a regular basis, moving to virtualization, adopting cloud storage and processing or using ISCSI, communicating digitally, and considering DRaaS. It looks like “not anticipating disaster” would be a disaster in itself.