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Data Backup – Its more about recovery

A recent article published by the Register from Marcus Schneider, board member from Storage Network Industry Association, makes a very interesting point: data backup revolves more around recovery than it actually revolves around backup!

The article details that data protection is about making data available when it is required and the version of the data required should be available to restore. This broken down into five key phases:

Detection: When a user notices a file is deleted, lost or corrupt, no matter what period of time has past.
Diagnosis: This is when the user must decide what version of the file to restore back when it was still consistent and error-free. This will depend on the company’s backup policy and retention period.

Restoration: This is when the file/folder/database is physically restored, but it is by no means the end of the process. Depending on the accident, before normal operations can be resumed, a restart of all applications, replay logs from a database, or from a journal for a file system might be required. This ensures data loss and down time is kept to bare minimum.

Test and Verification: All of the above is pointless if the file has not been tested and verified that it is correct and working how the user wants. It is only once this stage has been successfully completed that the data recovery process can be signed off.

With a reliable online backup solution in place, that is fully managed, backups can be monitored around the clock. Then, help is on hand when required to help with the recovery and by seeking the correct advice, file retention can ensure that the version of the file you want is available when required.

Importance of business continuity highlighted by online banking fail

Businesses and organisations in the UK have been given a demonstration of how not to manage a systems failure, by a US banking group which left customers unable to access their accounts for two days earlier in the month.

Sixteen and a half million people bank online with the Chase bank, but serious technical issues took the whole infrastructure offline for 48 hours, resulting in outcry amongst the ranks of users, who need online banking to make their daily activities run smoothly.

Forrester Research’s Brian Walker, said that although many organisations have contingency measures in place to ensure that they can continue to operate in the event of an IT issue, a lack of preparation means that many fail to trial these backup systems and are then left exposed when they are forced to put them into action.

Mr Walker said that the business continuity plans are not only left untried, but they are also unnecessarily complex, making it difficult to implement them. He explained that contacting consumers and explaining issues was key to making sure that customers were not left in the dark and suggested that social networking was the best tool to use in order to spread the word.

Gartner’s Stessa Cohen, pointed out that the downtime suffered by Chase’s online banking service, was actually publicised via Twitter users, rather than through official channels. This increased the level of vexation amongst users as the bank was portrayed as being uncommunicative.

Cohen claims that businesses which harness social media tools and keep in direct contact with users may not find that they are able to deploy disaster recovery planning any quicker, but that they may stifle the ire of customers in the short term.

Mr Walker identified that the negative side of social media usage was that giving out details of a problem would not only alert customers, but also competitors and the press, perhaps increasing the risk of damaging the affected firm’s reputation.

Mr Walker said that businesses simply had to get better at handling disasters and involving customers in the progress of reparations.

SMEs seek to improve business continuity and disaster recovery

A study carried out by analyst firm Forrester, has concluded that many small and medium sized businesses are going to be focusing on improving their disaster recovery and business continuity plans within the next year.

Business continuity planning has to take into account a large number of scenarios, from power cuts and flooding, to natural disasters and security breaches, according to Forrester’s Stephanie Balaouras.

Balaouras explained that the decision makers at the head of smaller firms and enterprises had been reluctant to invest in business continuity and disaster recovery in the past, because there is inadequate data relating to the probability of the most catastrophic events ever occurring.

To counteract this problem, various data protection firms and analysts have compiled formal explanations of why business continuity planning is essential. Balaouras cited a recent statistic which found an average business would encounter nearly 400 disasters annually, equating to nearly £70 billion pounds of lost business each year.

In 2009 the league table for the most disaster-affected nation was headed by the US, with catastrophes costing the economy close to £7 billion. It was followed by China, which lost around £3 billion to disasters and then France, which saw £2 billion slip away in the same manner.

Industry watchdogs are attempting to promote the importance of a business’ ability to recover operational viability as quickly as possible in the event of a disaster and Balaouras identified 22 different global initiatives with this goal in mind.

SMEs are likely to benefit from business continuity planning, not just in the event of a disaster, but when they seek to secure business partnerships with third party firms. A study conducted two years ago found that 80 per cent of businesses had been asked to prove their disaster recovery capabilities before entering into a working relationship with another organisation.

Over a third of the respondents to Forrester’s recent survey said that they were going to be bolstering investment in business continuity over the next year by a minimum of five per cent, while only a tenth said that they were having to cut spending in this area.

UK businesses encouraged to review business continuity plans for 2012 Olympics

As the 2012 Olympics draw closer firms based in the UK have been warned that failing to review and prepare business continuity plans in the face of the games could leave them exposed and inadequately able to deal with potential problems.

Steelhenge Consulting has said that many organisations around the UK have failed to take into account the various impacts upon business which may be felt as a result of the competition.

Steelhenge’s Isobel Nicholas said that the need for Olympic business continuity programmes does not just apply to those based in and around London. She said that the effects of the game could ripple across the country, disrupting supply chains and causing headaches for all ill-prepared UK firms.

Ms Nicholas pointed out that many businesses would need to take into account the fact that members of staff would be looking to take time off in large numbers to go and enjoy the games and those who cannot secure holiday may simply feign illness, which will have an impact on productivity.

Ms Nicholas suggested that businesses who might be hindered by clogged traffic links due to nearby events might consider allowing their staff to work remotely. This kind of continuity plan will be a useful tool, but will require significant prior planning in order to ensure that it is executed properly, according to Steelhenge.

To help lessen the impact of the 2012 London Olympics it is best to take stock and build a continuity plan that takes into account potential disruption now rather than waiting until there are fewer resources and less time, according to Ms Nicholas.

Businesses that prepare themselves for the hazards of the Olympics will leave behind a continuity strategy that can be applied to a number of situations in the future, which means that it is an investment that will continue to have benefits long after the games has concluded. Being robust and flexible when the situation warrants is key to business continuity planning and unlike the 2012 Olympics, most disruptions are not scheduled ahead of time.

Report suggests that firms are over confident in business continuity provisions

A study of businesses and organisations based in the UK and Europe has found that many could be placing an unwarranted degree of confidence in their current business continuity plans.

Market analyst Marsh produced its annual report into the attitudes and opinions surrounding business continuity management (BCM). The report is based upon input from 225 respondents from within the business world.

The main discrepancy noted in the report is between the 83 per cent of those questioned who said BCM was central to mitigating and managing risks against the 30 per cent who said that their ability to intelligently tackle issues and make firm decisions following disasters had been improved as a result of BCM.

Although this might be seen as troubling, the overall message delivered in the report is that BCM is now higher on the agenda for most businesses in the EU. Marsh concluded that the heightened awareness did not correlate with the extent and scope of the planning in many businesses. This leaves firms exposed with inadequate contingency plans. In many cases, improved BCM has been achieved only after a disaster had provided an all-too-practical demonstration as to the failings of a previous plan.

Marsh said that although businesses appreciate the need for some kind of plan to ensure business continuity, it can be difficult to explain just how significant such measures can be to those who have so far remained unaffected by their absence.

Marsh’s Hugh Morris said that many of the larger businesses involved in the survey were unrealistic as to the threats facing them and the recent travel disruption caused by the volcanic ash cloud proved that focusing solely on physical impact to supply chains was not enough to appreciate the wider risk.

Business continuity experts believe that the best way in which to prepare businesses for disruption with adequate BCM is in educating the senior management team. The importance of so doing is in direct correlation with the complexity of a given business.

UK secondary schools ignore data backup rules

It has emerged that a significant proportion of secondary schools in the UK are failing to meet the data backup guidelines laid out by government agency Becta.

In a recent study of over 100 schools around the country, in which the network managers were questioned on a variety of topics, it was found that many schools were failing to backup their data to remote servers. This contravenes the requirements of Becta rules.

The report also identified that data storage needs for an average school will jump by 75 percent in the near future, with an additional 1.5 terabytes of space required by 2012. This is expected to put a strain on budgets and resources across the board. Continue reading

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