Disaster recovery for data centres during the coronavirus crisis

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Coronavirus is reshaping daily activities in businesses around the world, with company policies being rapidly adjusted to safeguard workers and the future of the business, writes Dan Johnson, director of global business continuity and disaster recovery at Ensono

Coronavirus is reshaping daily activities in businesses around the world, with company policies being rapidly adjusted to safeguard workers and the future of the business. When implementing these plans, organisations cannot forget the significant potential impact of a pandemic like coronavirus on its data centre – the core of many modern businesses.

Data centres play a crucial role in delivering critical support to a diverse range of organisations across the economy, from sprawling government agencies to national retailers. When they fail, the impact can be catastrophic. Business downtime can cost upwards of £8,000 per minute and can shut down the ability of the organisation to deliver services to its users – a particularly traumatic prospect in areas like the emergency services which are so reliant on 24/7 connectivity. COVID-19 will test the operations of data centres to their limits, whether that is from increased traffic due to employees mostly working remotely, or critical data centre operations staff left stranded at home due to illness.

The critical threat posed by coronavirus to the data centre requires a broad, well-rounded disaster recovery plan. Don’t fall into the common trap of trying to plan for every possible disaster you think could occur. The best disaster recovery plans will involve a comprehensive roadmap that can account for a wide array of threat areas like cybersecurity issues, natural disasters, and of course, a global pandemic.

Test, test, and test again

Building this roadmap requires a clear strategy targeted to deliver maximum support to get the business back up and running when disasters hit.

The fact that lots of workers have been forced to work from home during COVID-19 opens the door to mobile alternatives in disaster recovery plans. Why not take this moment as an opportunity to introduce mobile device backup or recovery? Many organisations are yet to take this step, and particularly if the pandemic drags on, continued mobile device operability will be more important than ever.

Equally, the cloud needs to be part of your disaster recovery plan. A cloud backup removes the imperative for a physical presence in the data centre. Should it fail all company data and services is just automatically migrated and run from the cloud. It is also an excellent piece of the puzzle to complete your business continuity plan. Always remember, however, to do your due diligence and verify that any cloud vendors you may rely upon have their own plans in place to keep delivering cloud services to you during a disaster event.

Above all, the key to disaster recovery and business continuity plans is keeping them tested and updated regularly. Tests should happen at least once a year, and ideally should involve a different scenario each time. Assuming your business does not have a work-area recovery site, best practice is to run a tabletop exercise. This method requires key stakeholders identified in the plan to meet and work through a range of simulated emergency scenarios. Through this testing, teams familiarise themselves with the processes behind recovery from a disaster.

These scenarios need to stay fresh to reflect the diverse, evolving threat landscape of disasters that put businesses at risk. By shifting once from a severe weather event, another to a cybersecurity breach, and then perhaps to a global pandemic like COVID-19, your teams will learn the flexibility and resiliency to effectively respond to any disaster in the future.