UPDATING A BUSINESS CONTINUITY PLAN? LOOK TO THE CLOUD
In general, post millennium advancements in technology have had a profound impact on business continuity planning, but one of the most significant game changers has been the rise in prominence of cloud computing. Remote storage services, including iCloud, Evernote and Dropbox to name a few, present the opportunity to access valuable data, applications and infrastructure from anywhere. When setup correctly, cloud based data storage has the potential to withstand a number of events which may have previously resulted in corrupted physical data. As a result, the impact resulting from disturbances in standard operations can now be significantly lessened.
One of the biggest benefits to the cloud is the ability to store data, including the business continuity plan itself, in a secondary location allowing for regional disaster recovery. Most regions the world over have some type of potential for a natural disaster, yet far too many companies do not store their information far enough off site. This is particularly notable with small to mid-sized companies, and is of great relevance here in coastal British Columbia, where the question is not if we are going to be hit by an earthquake, but rather when.
Take, for example, Hurricane Sandy. When the storm ravished the Atlantic Coast in 2012, companies using cloud technology had access to vital data via the internet, which allowed them to focus more on resolving the damage done to their physical location (and/or to set up shop in a new location). Companies that relied on more traditional methods of information storage left themselves incredibly vulnerable, and in some cases lost everything. Even those that did manage to salvage data, would have lost valuable recovery time setting up their systems post storm. The General Services Administration, for example, maintained functional IT systems throughout the storm, and was able to use its cloud based email platform to coordinate emergency response and recovery initiatives.
When putting vital information in the cloud, it is advisable to evaluate what needs to be saved. It can be time consuming and inefficient to put everything in the cloud, but can be potentially disastrous to put nothing there. Applications, records, planning documents, records and other data critical to the mission of the organization are prime cloud candidates.
In addition to the significant disaster recovery benefits of cloud storage, the cloud can also provide more streamlined day to day operations by providing unified email, communication and storage between team members. This can be useful when traditional communication channels become unavailable.
As beneficial as the cloud is, it is not without it’s drawbacks. As we’ve seen recently in the news, the ability of computer hackers currently out matches that of many governments and corporations. As with anything stored online, the potential for security breaches on the cloud does exist and, depending on the importance of the documents stored and the type of business storing them, this may be something that must be accounted for in the continuity plan. Another potential problem, with the cloud and with modern tech in general, is that there is often a tendency to rely too heavily on our ability to be connected to the internet. Though it is unlikely to be a long term issue, it is advisable to have plans in place that account for a short term loss of internet connectivity.
Still, even with these considerations in mind, cloud based storage technology has proven to be one of the most useful innovations in business continuity planning and disaster recovery. If your company is not currently utilizing cloud based technology, it is certainly something to look into for the future.
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