The best IT strategies aim to minimise the impact of technology failures. When catastrophes do occur, you need a disaster recovery (DR) plan to reduce downtime and get back to operating normally, ASAP!
Australian businesses have to be ready to face everything from bushfires and severe storms to increasing rates of cyberattacks. There are also more mundane threats like power failure and human error, which can be devastating in their own right.
A disaster for which you’re unprepared can overwhelm your organisation – especially when every minute of downtime costs you.
$106 million lost in 27 hours
Take the 2020 Melbourne Cup – the race that stops the nation. In 2019, Tabcorp (TAB) turned over more than $106 million thanks to the race. The COVID 19 pandemic response precluded large gatherings and limited the chance for customers to visit a physical location. These restrictions meant that more transactions were happening remotely.
Then, disaster struck. An incident in a third-party data centre shut down part of TAB’s system for 27 hours. The shutdown was over one the organisation’s most profitable times of the year. In the end, the downtime cost the TAB an estimated $100 million in turnover.
There’s no doubt that such a large company had a detailed DR plan in place, yet this one issue still resulted in over a full day of downtime and an enormous number of unhappy customers. This case proves the impact an outage can have on businesses and their customers, and the importance for all organisations to prioritise disaster recovery.
When talking about business continuity after a disaster, there’s one key distinction that needs addressing.
Disaster recovery vs. backups
Backups do form a significant part of disaster recovery, but they are not the sole consideration.
Backups are the automatic transfer or replication of your organisation’s data files into a secondary source. In case of an accident such as a fire or lost equipment, you can rely on the backed-up data to help resume operations. But there’s a big difference between maintaining backups and having a dedicated disaster recovery plan.
Essentially, backups are not a plan – they’re a tool that works with the DR plan to ensure business continuity and manage risk. A solid DR plan includes all actions you need to take before a disaster strikes, during such an event, and after the disaster to protect your organisation and get it back to full functionality.
The best DR plans aim to mitigate the risks of any predictable negative events. However, if disaster strikes, a DR plan defines the processes that kick in immediately to get your company back into operation. The DR plan re-establishes access to your organisation’s data, systems, applications, and IT infrastructure following an outage – including accessing backups. This way, a DR plan protects the organisation from negative occurrences, making it an essential part of any security planning strategy.
What’s in a DR plan?
A complete disaster recovery plan covers essential areas, including the following:
- Recovery time objective (RTO): the amount of time you have to recover before your business suffers significant financial losses. Calculating RTO helps you know the limit for when you absolutely must have at least basic processes functioning again.
- Recovery point objective (RPO): the maximum amount of data the organisation can afford to lose.
- Failover: automatic offloading of tasks to a pre-selected backup system for seamless operations.
- Workload prioritisation: differentiating which processes need to be prioritised to get normal operations back as soon as possible.
- Failback: plan for reverting to original systems after full recovery.
- Restoration: transfer of backed up data to the primary system.
- Response actions: a detailed plan of which personnel will do what in an emergency.
- Equipment: the exact tools, technology, and systems that will be used for recovery.
- Disaster recovery testing: practice scenarios to evaluate any weaknesses in your DR.
Why your business needs disaster recovery.
Negative outcomes of a data breach or other downtime-inducing disaster include financial losses, hefty compliance fines, decreased brand trust, and customer loss. But a disaster recovery plan can significantly reduce the amount of downtime you suffer, as well as the risk of going offline in the first place.
A well-defined DR plan can:
- Prevent financial damage through the quick restoration of your systems.
- Reduce downtime by following predefined recovery procedures.
- Help you retain customers through fast recovery and a communication plan to promptly address concerns.
Organisations have overlooked the critical function of seamless disaster recovery in the past. However, the high rate of cybercrime in the country (reported by the Australian Cyber Security Centre as one attack every 10 minutes), stringent compliance laws and other public awareness efforts have encouraged the increase of DR solution utilisation.
Some industries have a more urgent need for eliminating downtime than others – any business that relies on time-sensitive digital services will suffer in the case of an outage, as exemplified by the TAB system failure. Some particular industries where every moment of uptime is critical include:
- Financial institutions
- Public organisations
- Health organisations
- Data centres
Leveraging cloud disaster recovery.
With all the importance placed on disaster recovery, it may sound like a luxury only available to enterprises that can afford to maintain their own data centres. That may have been the case in the past. But with the growing accessibility and affordability of cloud backup and disaster recovery options, there are now DR solutions that enable business continuity for organisations of all sizes.
Cloud disaster recovery for businesses offers multiple advantages over traditional on-site technology. These advantages include:
- Faster recovery time
- Cost savings for system repairs
- Seamless, uncomplicated data recovery
- Reliability—you can test the recovery plan without any disruptions
- Scalability with pay-as-you-grow data recovery plans
For organisations that cannot be offline for any significant time, the combination of speed, cost, and simplicity makes cloud disaster recovery a valuable option.
Working with an established IT partner experienced in disaster recovery guarantees your organisation’s ongoing risk management and offers you peace of mind. First Focus offers custom data recovery strategy and a host of other managed IT services tailored to suit your company’s needs.
While it’s not possible for a business to altogether avoid disasters, having a disaster recovery plan in place can minimise the extent of damage and return your business to full operations as quickly as possible.
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