How the cloud can fortify your business continuity

Even a few minutes of system downtime or data disruption can cost you clients and revenue – and if you don’t have a robust disaster recovery plan, it could even spell death for your business. Here’s how you can ensure that never happens by leveraging cloud technologies.

It should be no secret by now that one of cloud computing’s greatest strengths is its high level of flexibility – its ability to increase capacity to virtually any level of demand. Through the effective use of cloud infrastructure, businesses of any size can quickly spin up additional resources to account for whatever resource requirements it encounters, no matter how unexpected.

Unsurprisingly, this also means cloud computing has some very real applications in business continuity and disaster recovery.

Traditionally, an organization might maintain several sets of redundant hardware, configuring these systems for automated fail-over if any should become inoperable. For enterprises with large budgets and extensive IT departments, this may be a perfectly acceptable solution. However, for small and mid-sized businesses it is less than ideal.

It means expending precious finances that could be put towards fueling business growth. It means installing and monitoring internal, air-gapped storage. It means maintaining extensive hardware that you may never even use.

With the cloud, there’s another way.

While it is advisable to maintain at least some level of hardware redundancy, disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) leverages the hardware-independent virtualization capabilities of the cloud. This ensures seamless, secure system and data backup coupled with near-immediate fail-over and more efficient recovery. Moreover, it provides your organization these capabilities at a fraction of the cost of traditional backups.

Here’s a bit of advice to ensure you get the most out of your cloud disaster recovery and business continuity:

• Understand that cloud infrastructure is no substitute for effective processes and policies. Even with a cloud-based disaster recovery solution, you still need to identify your critical assets, have a plan for communication and responsibilities, and know what systems and data need to be prioritized to ensure business continuity.

• Regularly test your backup and recovery systems. Automation is great, and it significantly reduces your workload, but you have to be sure it actually works. You can’t just take a hands-off approach and assume everything is covered.

• Ensure you have a plan in place for keeping in touch with vendors, partners, and shareholders during a crisis. It’s imperative that you keep everyone up to date with what’s happening.

• In addition to a disaster recovery plan, implement a security incident response plan. Cyberattacks and data breaches are very different from equipment failures and natural disasters – they’re more focused on forensics and mitigation than continuity, and you need to understand that.

• Whatever cloud recovery tool you use, make sure it is built to the security standards of your industry. You cannot, for example, use a standard enterprise recovery tool if you work in healthcare – you need one that’s completely HIPAA compliant.

• Maintain your systems and data. The best way to mitigate a disaster, be it hardware failure or inclement weather, is to ensure your organization operates like a well-oiled machine in the first place.

A lot of information on the cloud is primarily focused on its potential to promote better business agility and more effective scaling. It’s certainly well-suited for both those use cases. However, we’d be doing the technology a disservice if we did not also consider its potential to promote better business up-time, disaster recovery, and redundancy. That is, perhaps, one of its greatest strengths.