When IT outage horror stories become prime-time news, many companies tend to take a closer look at their own ability to recover from a disaster—whether it be a hardware failure, fire, human error or environmental threat.
The first step is acknowledging that the risk of an IT outage is very real. A recent independent study conducted by Opinion Matters on behalf of iland revealed that 95 percent of companies surveyed suffered at least one IT outage in the last year. The large majority had a disaster recovery plan in place, and 87 percent triggered a failover to mitigate the impact of the outage. Most troubling of all the findings: 58 percent experienced issues when using their disaster recovery solution.
As evidenced by the recent outages at Delta and Southwest, even companies that invest millions on disaster recovery plans make mistakes. Often, they are completely avoidable. Here are some of the most common pitfalls to avoid when planning for IT resilience:
Breaking the budget in the name of resilience and compliance
Zero downtime is no longer a goal reserved for companies with large IT footprints and budgets. Modern disaster recovery tools and cloud-based services (disaster recovery as a service, or DRaaS) enable companies to fail over in minutes without the expense of maintaining a secondary data center. Some providers offer pay-as-you-go pricing models that only charge for resources you use, significantly cutting disaster recovery costs.
Of course, choosing a compliant cloud service is key here, and fully vetting a provider before you purchase is paramount. Be wary of hidden fees associated with compliance support. Also, don’t simply check the compliance logos thrown onto a vendor’s website. Verify the dates of certificates to ensure they are still valid, check out their audit paperwork and request to do a walk-through of the data center with their compliance team present. They should also deliver on-demand compliance reports, so ask for example outputs. And remember: not all business associate agreements are created equal. Validation at the start can prevent a troubling audit later.
Compliance knowledge gap
More than ever, every department within an organization seems to be strapped for time. Teams are asked to do more with less, and that certainly applies to IT. Many times, as they face resource and skills shortages, IT teams do not have a clear picture of what data and applications are subject to compliance requirements.
In fact, an independent study by Enterprise Management Associates revealed that while 96 percent of security professionals acknowledged that their organizations have compliance-related workloads in the cloud, only 69 percent of IT teams identified the same. This gap could lead to exposures for the organization if IT were to fail over into a noncompliant cloud when they have compliance-related workloads. Again, vetting a cloud provider’s compliance capabilities is key, as it helps ensure you are protected even if there is uncertainty about various workloads.
Failing to test and test again
Too often, companies invest time and resources into adopting a disaster recovery plan and never execute proper testing to make sure it works. Many times, they are hesitant because testing has traditionally slowed down performance of the primary data center, and a slow network can stifle productivity. Cloud-based disaster recovery eliminates this issue, as teams can execute testing on demand with no impact to normal operations. Tests should be conducted regularly – annually at a minimum. Leading DRaaS providers will also work directly with your team to troubleshoot any issues.
Murky lines of responsibility
While most teams focus on technical considerations, understanding people and process requirements is just critical. Who needs to trigger the failover? When should they trigger it? What happens if they aren’t available? Do they have proper credentials and training? What is our cloud provider responsible for when it comes to failing over, failing back, proving compliance and ensuring security? Too many companies fail to ask these questions.
Underestimating the importance of security
While security was once considered the biggest barrier to cloud adoption, the technology has matured and IT and security experts agree cloud done properly is as or more secure than an on-premise data center. “Done properly” cannot be overemphasized. While companies increasingly turn to DRaaS to ensure IT resilience, too many overlook the security capabilities of the cloud they are failing into. That means even if they thwart the initial outage, their data and applications are still at risk because the cloud they rely on could be vulnerable to attack.
Just as you evaluate a DRaaS provider for compliance, take a close look at security features as well. Trust, but verify. Demand advanced functionality like intrusion prevention, encryption, antivirus/antimalware tools and reporting that will help keep you ahead of threats. After all, you may be on that platform for days, weeks or even months, and services and support vary greatly.
In today’s business world, companies cannot afford to take risky bets when it comes to disaster recovery initiatives. By avoiding the mistakes of others, you can efficiently protect your business and focus on what you do best.