SMBs and Business Continuity Plans

Question: What is the cost of a hardware failure to your business? If you are like most business owners, you are already calculating the cost of the server, hard drive, installation cost etc. But is that really the cost to your business? To put it another way, what would it cost you to replace the DATA that was lost? That, to me, is the actual cost. How many months will it take to re-enter your accounting or customer data for example if your server’s hard drive were to simply kaput and become unavailable? For those lucky ones who have not experienced it, pray it does not happen to you. For those of us who have experienced it, we know it will never happen again, right?

Business owners have a false sense of security when it comes to the issue of Business Continuity which is often thought of as just an IT (Information Technology) problem. “We have a good backup system so we are fine”. There is often the tendency to overlook flaws on business processes, application development, and logistics.

According to the Gartner Group, over fifty-percent of all businesses fail after experiencing a major disruption. In addition, lack of planning for these disruptions can cause a business to lose a majority of its customers and integrity.

Research has also shown that a business is more likely to recover if it has a plan and has taken into account all of the areas on which it depends to function normally especially since it is difficult to predict such failures.

As is well known, most computer hardware, if used consistently over a period of three to five years, stand a forty to sixty percent chance of having a catastrophic failure.  It is also a fact that most small businesses purchase non-brand computers, disregard repair policies (depending on the toss-and-replace mentality instead), and depend on these non-brand computers heavily. Most use inexpensive file servers (actually desktop computers converted to “servers”), or a cheap tape drive for backup. Backups are rarely tested to determine if a failed system can be rebuilt from scratch, and in many cases, the backups fail to restore critical data.

The question, “What if you had to leave your office within 30 seconds and could not come back for a month, if ever?” has been asked again and again.  The sad situation is that even with all the evidence supporting the urgency around this question, it remains answered with only a shrug. Business owners, who normally would not think twice about purchasing liability or health insurance, reply with a fatalistic, “I will deal with that if it happens.”

Business owners need to identify the risks that their businesses face, and make proactive plan to follow should the unexpected computer shutdown occur. By making computer problems “expected” and “planned for,” businesses will reduce the cost of data loss and recovery efforts.  The events of September 11th 2001, the ensuing Anthrax bio-terrorism scare, hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the incident with a small plane crashing into the IRS building in Austin, TX etc. gave “Business Continuity” new meaning. Although the probability of these events occurring again may be considered quite low, business owners should recognize the need for Business Continuity planning.

We understand that the typical small business has no IT department and in many cases may only have one person, or a contract with a service, that truly understands IT. For the most part, however, computers are treated like appliances in the sense that when something breaks, it is repaired or replaced.

Our goal as IT service providers should be to assist the small business owner in saving money and preserving wealth. We could do this by advising business owners on:

  • Discovering what risks need to be avoided immediately.
  • Closely examining processes, policies, and procedures to ensure requirements are met.
  • Developing an awareness of what processes actually impact the business.
  • Developing an appreciation of the business continuation plan as an integral part of the business plan.
  • Helping you with a remote backup solution that backs up your critical data in real time, as it changes, to reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a data backup for as little as $20 a month.
  • Simple operating system imaging techniques that reduces the time it takes to bring a system back online and operations following a system failure
  • Working with vendors with whom you can pre-arrange replacement hardware should your fail.
  • Simple techniques to follow to make sure you have continuous access to your data even when your computers are not available.