- DSNews - https://dsnews.com -

The Silver Lining: Natural Disasters and Tech

The USA felt the brunt of the world’s three costliest natural disasters in 2018 with damages totaling more than $46 billion. The deadly Camp Fire in California was number one, with Hurricanes Michael and Florence coming in second and third place. Those disasters may have monopolized the headlines, but there are so many more homes and businesses destroyed each year by tornadoes, flooding, and fires.

With storm season right around the corner, many firms in the hurricane belt spend the first quarter of each year testing their business continuity/disaster-recovery plan (BCP/DR). All too often, however, firms assume they are in a “safe zone” and fail to adequately plan, prepare, and test.

The reality is that no firm is in a “safe zone.” Natural disasters themselves are not necessarily what will put your business in a risky situation. These are the top causes of data loss or downtime during such events:  

The real costs associated with such data loss or downtime include:

While there are various statistics available on the subject, some studies indicate that 90% of companies without an effective disaster-recovery plan who suffer a major data disaster are out of business within one year.  

A Cloud Comparison

For many years, firms have been apprehensive to use the mysterious “cloud” as a strategy in their BCP/DR plan or overall data management, largely due to perceived compliance concerns or a general lack of understanding as to how to choose the right solution.

There are many drivers that may cause you to think about cloud computing as the best solution. They typically include:

Many are skeptical of cloud computing because of assumptions that it is less secure or carries greater risk. However, this theory can only be considered true if you have completed a direct and comprehensive comparison between the cloud provider’s environment and your on-premises infrastructure. Factors to be compared include:

Until you have had an expert truly weigh your internal environment against the cloud, it would be premature to assume one is safer than the other.

What’s Your Plan?

Regardless of whether you choose the cloud as part of your strategy or not, you need an effective plan.  When putting together an effective BC/DR solution, you must start with the basics:

Having a reliable cloud computing site that you cannot reach because your ISP has failed does not provide you the coverage you need

Know your requirements and understand your environment: Whether you handle your own backups, use a cloud service provider (CSP), or a combination of both, your objective is to ensure you are protected against the risk of data not being available or business processes not functional, leading to a breach of your service level agreements, lost revenue, and damaged client relationships. It is important that you understand the specific requirements set forth by your clients. They include:

Data Replication: Maintaining an up-to-date copy of the required data at a different location can be done on a few technical levels and with varying degrees of granularity. It is important to know your replication requirements. For example, data can be replicated at the block level, file level, or database level. Replication can be in bulk, on the byte level, via file synchronization, database mirroring, daily copies, etc.  Each alternative impacts your RPO/RTO and has varying costs including bandwidth requirements.

Functionality Replication: This includes the ability to re-create processing capabilities at a different location. Depending on the risk to be mitigated and the scenario that’s chosen, this could be as simple as selecting an additional deployment zone or as involved as performing an extensive rearchitecting. Examples of simple cases are environments that are already heavily virtualized. The relevant VM images can then simply be copied, where they would be ready for service restoration on demand.

An ideal infrastructure cloud service provider will likely have the application architecture described and managed in an orchestration tool or other cloud infrastructure management system. With these, replicating the functionality can be a simple activity.

The worst recovery-elapsed time is probably when functionality is replicated only when disaster strikes. A better solution is the active-passive form, where resources are held on standby. In active mode, the replicated resources are participating in the production.

Planning, Preparing and Provisioning: This is the functionality around processes that lead up to the actual DR failover response. The most important factor in this category is adequate monitoring so that more time is available.

Failover Capability: Appropriate load balancing is required to ensure that redirection of the user service requests occurs properly and in a timely manner.

Smarter Solutions

It is easy to see why many firms elect to make the cloud part of their solution. According to the 2017 Legal Technology Survey from the American Bar Association, cloud usage grew more than 40% from 2016 to 2017, from 37% to just over 52%. If you are ready to make that move, there are some things you need to consider.


The cloud is the future, but it must be embraced wisely.