Need Sandy to Teach You a Lesson? You Fail

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The media has been barking for a week about how superstorm Sandy should have taught us all a lesson in BC/DR. Nonsense.

For the past week, the technology headlines have been clogged with dozens of breathless stories all prattling on around the same theme. Hurricane Sandy taught us all in information technology a big lesson, they say. Never has the case been more clearly made for diligent IT backup and recovery planning than by the superstorm that crippled the Northeast, they say.

Nonsense.

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If you needed a natural catastrophe to show you the value of business continuity and data recovery for your clients’ businesses, you were already doing them a grave disservice, and it’s unlikely you’ve really learned anything at all beyond keeping an ear tuned to the Weather Channel and petitioning the gods of Santeria for fair winds. Good luck with that.

There’s a good reason we prefer to use the expression “data recovery” as opposed to the more common parlance of “disaster recovery.” Labeling it disaster recovery lets folks off the hook. The idea that a business can avoid a disaster in the form of a weather event or a terror attack gives people a false sense of security about their information. Business continuity and data recovery isn’t about changing the world or nature or steeling yourself from something you don’t really believe will ever happen to you. This is about safeguarding precious business assets so they’ll be available in the entirely likely event that hard drives fail and systems sputter. Sure data recovery systems are called into action when hurricanes and earthquakes interrupt your customer’s business. But the reality is often far more mundane.

Nobody would really define a broken power supply as a disaster (unless it’s your power supply, I suppose). The focus should be on getting the data back when perfectly routine everyday troubles and Murphy’s law rear their ugly heads. From the solution provider’s perspective, that means the basics like restoring servers or mainframes with backups, re-establishing PBXs, or provisioning LANs to meet the client’s immediate business needs.

You don’t need to wait until you see Jim Cantore or Al Roker having their rain slicker torn off in a gale to understand that data is the life blood of every client’s business. Very little of what goes on in the modern organization is committed to anything more than bits and bytes these days. Contracts and plans. Personnel records and customer relationships. All of the communications businesses need to keep in order to drive the business and comply with regulations. It’s all just data.

If you lose it – and you will lose it – and are unable to get it back you are in big trouble. Consider this: Industry research shows that 94 percent of companies that suffer a catastrophic data loss and haven’t backed up do not survive. 43 percent of them simply will not reopen and 51 percent close within two years

Think you’re safe with your outdated and untested backup systems? Unlikely, as 77 percent of businesses with tape backup have been shown to have flaws that could impede recovery and half of them have been provably shown to fail in restoration attempts. On top of that, a whopping 96 percent of all of the workstations out there are not being adequately backed up, which seems crazy because we know that a quarter of them are going to fail, not because they are hit by an earthquake or a tsunami, or by the Strom of the Century, but because they are computers. Simple, fickle machines.

This stuff isn’t easy. The data is coming at organizations from many different directions and in many different forms. BC/DR plans must now account not only for the stuff in the data center, but also information stored in virtual environments, on mobile devices and increasingly the cloud. But diligence is worth it.  According to the research, 82 percent of significant network disruptions could be reduced or avoided by proper data recovery and business continuity planning. That’s a significant success level considering failure to protect data in critical ventures like healthcare, transportation, law enforcement and the like can, without hyperbole, be a matter of life and death.

We’re talking about real companies here. These are your clients’ lifelong enterprises facing lost business, damage to their brands and their hard-won reputations, fines for non-compliance with regulations and expensive litigation.

Thankfully most solution providers don’t need the tropical update page on Wunderground.com to realize the gravity of the situation. Word is getting out and responsible organizations are trying. Among those organizations with a solid security strategy, the protection and recoverability of stored data ranks near the top of the priorities list.

This is the message that every VAR and every MSP owes to their clients. Yes BC/DR is a $40 billion market opportunity and is especially hot in the SMB space where many solution providers thrive, but business continuity and data recovery is more than that. It’s a business imperative that anyone who wants to be considered a trusted advisor must engage in to the lasting benefit of their clients.

And that is true even on the calmest and sunniest of days.

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