We work with companies every day to minimise their IT downtime. When you’re faced with the unfortunate incident of a problem updating you email server, or someone has accidentally deleted your file architecture, or even worse, your whole IT system is down following a fire, then 90% of you will have wished you were better prepared for such incidents. Having dealt with all of these circumstances and more, we’re encouraging clients to plan ahead rather than plan better in hindsight. Here are 5 tips on how to be proactive and improve your business continuity:

1. Plan well
What do we mean by ‘plan well’? Here are some things you can do to improve your chances of getting through a disaster relatively unscathed?

 Have a business continuity plan. This needs to include an analysis of threats, a list of roles and responsibilities of key people who will be involved in the recovery, emergency contact information, details of your disaster recovery strategy and how to invoke recovery, recovery objectives (RTO and RPO), recovery processes, power and working arrangements for employees, communications strategies and an outline of when the business is considered to be out of recovery phase. This is quite a lot to plan, so for extra help with this download our template which will help you document all this.

 Communicate your business continuity plan with the business, and most importantly the key people involved in recovery. Ensure everyone is aware of their roles and responsibilities. 6 monthly review meetings will ensure that people feel comfortable with the plan and that the recovery process runs smoothly.

 Make sure your plan is available in a disaster. Saving your plan onto the server which you can’t access in a disaster is one of the most common mistakes people make. Have your plan accessible – we recommend a hard copy to be kept in a safe which is easy to grab, plus a soft copy stored off-site if the hard copy is unobtainable.

2. Test your plan – practice makes perfect!
No matter how many business continuity plans you’ve designed and implemented, the only way to really be sure yours is going to work is to test it. And that doesn’t mean testing parts of it individually, it means carrying out a full disaster recovery exercise. You should plan to do this at least every 6 months. Book a date in when you can perform a full end to end recovery of your systems. Some companies even go to the extremes of making employees work from their backup location and don’t allow them back in the building once they have been evacuated. This makes sure that all elements of the business continuity plan are tested and proven to work.

It’s important to measure the results of your test against your RTO and RPO objectives and make sure you’re meeting your targets. After all, these are business objectives normally set by the executive team and if they’re not met in a disaster then you’re likely to foot the blame.
With your first exercise, it’s unlikely that you will meet your targets, but with practice you’ll soon see the recovery times fall.
Why is ongoing practice so important? Studies have shown that practicing triggers a pattern of electrical signals through our neurons. This causes myelin to build up around the axons of our nerve cells which, in turn, increases the speed and strength of the signal. So, practice really will help reduce recovery times as we learn to deal with a recovery a lot more quickly.

3. Never stop testing
If you get this far, you’re doing better than the 47% of people who never test their disaster recovery solution according to our survey.
But the success of your recovery depends on you keeping up with the regular changes that will happen to your IT system. With every change, the consistency of your applications will change. So if you install blackberry onto your system then you need to ensure that you have tested the recovery of your blackberry server on your recovery systems. Keeping up to date with regular testing is key to ensuring optimal business continuity. To understand more about why you should test regularly, read our whitepaper outlining the issues caused if you don’t test regularly.

4. Log changes to your Infrastructure
Every change made to your IT system should be logged. A common cause of prolonged IT downtime is that companies make changes to their systems without logging them, and when systems are recovered there are applications missing. Needless to say this doesn’t help when you’re planning for optimal productivity so ensure a central log is kept and all disaster recovery responsibilities can access the log. Part of the process should be to incorporate this log into the recovery so that recovery time is kept to a minimum.

5. Do as much in advance as you can
The secret to achieving really fast recovery times is to carry out as much of the recovery process as you can in advance. This will save time, and also leave you with less to think about when you really need to recover. So, if you have a spare set of systems then you can recover your operating systems and applications to these systems in advance on a regular basis, which only leaves you to load your latest data on when the time comes. Traditionally, having a spare set of systems is expensive though, and recovering in advance is time consuming for a small business that doesn’t have the resource. Another option is to outsource to a virtual provider that will recover your entire systems, including your most recent data, in advance (called Pre-recovery) to a virtual platform. This removes the expense of having to invest in a second set of hardware, and offers a full managed service so it doesn’t take up any of your resource. With the cloud and automation, these costs are significantly lower than having to do it in-house so are worth looking into.

Further Reading: Pre-recovery – how does it work and why should you have it?

Protect your company with Plan B
Plan B offers a guaranteed disaster recovery service that uniquely recovers your critical systems in advance (Pre-recovery). This has the benefits of guaranteeing the fastest return to service time of all cloud DR service providers, returning you to 100% productivity within just a few minutes of an IT disaster.
In addition, cloud technology and automation enables this level of hot standby functionality at a previously unaffordable cost.
To speak to Plan B about your requirements, or to discuss a free trial contact us at:
info@planb.co.uk
08448 707999
www.planb.co.uk

By: Beth Baxter

Beth