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In this year’s Enterprise Data Center trend watch, Ovum confirmed that many companies are turning to OpEx data center strategies to support critical infrastructure.  As the data center becomes a strategic issue, companies need to rethink how business continuity plans should be adapted to ensure protection against impending risks of cyber-crime, natural disasters and terror attacks.

For a business continuity plan to be effective it needs to take into account four key elements: people, technology, information and communications. If disaster strikes, companies need to ensure their digital and physical information is backed-up and made easily accessible to employees during downtime, and that communication contingencies are in place to make sure that key personnel remain contactable.

When putting a business continuity plan in place it’s essential that the following steps are taken:

Plan for the effect, not the threat – There is a temptation to address the specifics of every possible scenario but this can lead to a bottomless pit. In general it is better to plan for the effects (eg loss of comms at site x) and not every possible threat.

Prioritize – Think about the processes and applications that need come back online first. What are their dependencies? Who is required to activate and support them?

Multi-source connectivity – Your data network should rely on multiple paths and providers so if one provider is impacted by a crisis, there is access to a second or third. As such, services should to be located in a facility that provides maximum connectivity options.

Resource planning – Make sure you have a second or third backup person for each critical response.

Use service-specific back-up – Depending on the priority of the service, the data replication technology and network bandwidth requirements must be considered. Critical applications may require an expensive geographically load-balanced back-up, with instant failover powered by high speed links. Less critical email systems could have periodic “snapshots” running on slower connections. Either way, back-up in a well-connected facility in case several service providers go down.

Think globally – As you create your plan and back-up facility, consider the ability to replicate the process globally. It is by far easier to repeat a standard process within data centres that provides global consistency in their facilities and services.

Create a business impact analysis – To be budget-savvy you should compare the cost of downtime for each key piece of infrastructure with the cost of implementing the business continuity plan. This ensures your plan is tailored to revenue-impacting processes and can highlight the need for either more investment or for a less costly plan.

Think ecosystem – Think about how you connect to your ecosystem of data sources, service providers and partners. Ideally you want as many as possible in an extremely well-connected colocated facility to minimise costs. How will your data center provider facilitate this, and what additional value can they provide within their eco-system?

Meet regulations – Make sure your recovery infrastructure meets regulatory and compliance requirements. Double check certifications, and test regularly.

Train staff– The plan will not be successful if people don’t know about it and if it isn’t tested against a variety of scenarios. Simplify plans and training requirements in to smaller manageable sub-dependent plans. Do not over-complicate or burden any particular resource group as this leads to stress and fragmented success in real life activation.

Ultimately there’s only so much a company can do when disaster strikes, and it won’t always be possible to defend against certain events – especially when it comes to natural disasters. However, there are steps businesses can take to ensure such disasters have as little impact as possible, and therefore, give themselves the best chances of coming out of a crisis unscathed.