In the modern world, many directors view business growth as the single most important aspect of their professional life. Every aspect of their “to do” list is focused on growth, from winning new clients to building relationships with the current customer base. However, far too many have a blinkered view when it comes to growth plans, assuming increased revenue is the only figure that matters. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

As the scale and complexity of the interconnected world has grown, the potential for disaster to strike continues to rise. Hackers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, as shown by this year’s Ashley Madison incident, while UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) collectively lost £831 million during last year’s winter floods. Worryingly then, research has found 60 per cent of businesses are ill-prepared to react when disaster strikes which goes to show, lessons simply haven’t been learned.

The tip of the iceberg

With global warming a major issue which isn’t going away and Storm Desmond running rampant in Cumbria and the surrounding areas, it’s never been more important for businesses to have an in-depth, future proof disaster recovery plan in place to ensure they are prepared for any eventuality. The seemingly annual winter floods showcase just how important it is for businesses to prepare for a worst case scenario. Although these floods cause many tragic incidents which were impossible to prevent, steps should have been taken to ensure rapid recovery processes were in place in all business premises.

The same must be true for all other issues which can arise. For example, surveys show that IT professionals see communications outages as their biggest frustration in the business world, yet almost two thirds are doing nothing to ensure quick recovery when they do occur. Outsiders may see outages as a minor hindrance, but the loss of time and productivity caused by outages can cost millions throughout a year, especially if they impact customers or result in data loss. It’s therefore time to make a change and ensure businesses are as prepared as possible to react to, and recover from, unforeseen events causing technology outages.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

As with any step-change, the first step is realising there is a problem. Once business leaders understand the need for their organisation to be fully prepared for unforeseen issues, it’s then a case of working out how this is achievable. Below are two steps which must be considered by any director serious about ensuring their company is future proofed:

  • Get a security audit
Ethical Hacking is a phrase used to describe one aspect of the work of IT and network security firms. Such a firm sits on the outside and tries to breach a company’s systems and identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the same way a malicious hacker would. By doing so, they allow the company to pre-empt any hackers and to close loopholes before anyone else can identify them. Of course, such audits have to be done regularly, maybe once a year if not more often, as all IT systems are continuously updated, overhauled and refreshed. Most data centres will have a relationship with such a security firm to ensure their security is of the highest possible standards. A security audit will repay its cost in peace of mind alone, let alone the avoidance of the disaster which can occur if hackers get into the company’s confidential finance or customer information. Losing sensitive customer data can have disastrous ramifications for businesses, costing them clients and tarnishing their reputation simultaneously.
  • Use a data centre
While much effort goes into preventing malicious cyber-access, the simplest way to get hold of data is to physically break in and steal the servers, or maybe just their hard drives. Many smaller companies could never justify the cost of operating 24/7 on-site security cover. The simple thing to do is to put the physical equipment, or maybe just the critical parts of it, into a secure data centre where the physical security, the power, the cooling and the connectivity are guaranteed. Data centres are good at security because it is their job to be – why would any business choose to operate in a data centre if it wasn’t a secure option?

High quality data centres also have systems in place to ensure back-up structures automatically kick in when an outage occurs, so any services relying on this data don’t suffer any downtime. With the vast range of connections and structures which combine within data centres, providers are continuously asking “what will happen if this element fails?” to ensure business and their customers don’t suffer any downtime. So, whether it’s a malicious attack by a third party, a flash flood or a fire on premise, data centres will continue running so potential outages are nipped in the bud.

Despite the need for disaster recovery plans being common knowledge, many businesses don’t have one in place. Now is the time to act, or businesses will face a future of wondering when the next disaster will strike and how damning a financial implication it will have.

By Roger Keenan, managing director of central London data centre, City Lifeline