What to Put in Your Winter Preparedness Kit

Snowy roadThe first day of winter is almost here, and that means we all have to gear up for the colder weather and icy roads. Make sure you’re equipped by keeping a winter preparedness kit in your car. Here are some critical items to remember:
  • Ice pick
  • Snow shovel and brush
  • Basic tool kit with screwdrivers, pliers and a wrench
  • Bag of traction material like kitty litter or sand
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Items to keep you warm, such as extra clothes, gloves, hats and blankets
  • Booster cables
  • First aid kit 
  • Nonperishable food items (such as granola bars) 
  • Water
  • Warning flares
  • Reflective triangles

With these items, you'll be prepared to handle the wintry roads. For more winter tips, check out our post “What to do When... There Is Too Much Snow.”

Research Shows That the Demand for Healthcare Cloud Services Is Growing

Doctor standing in front of cloud conceptIn recent years, regulatory mandates such as HIPAA have forced healthcare organizations to approach business continuity differently, particularly when it comes to big data management.

With electronic data volumes growing by about 40 percent annually, healthcare practices are having to innovate in the way they manage data, while keeping in mind objectives such as recovering data and reducing the likelihood of security breaches.

Efficient management of high-value data is also becoming important to improving quality of care. In a recent survey by the American Health Information Management Association, nearly all healthcare professionals (more than 90 percent) said that valuable information “helps improve care quality, contain costs and analyze clinical, business and financial performance.” 

Cloud solutions are making it possible for a more streamlined data management process. But are healthcare organizations taking advantage of these solutions? Do they have the resources available to do so? Recent research says yes.

A report by Frost & Sullivan indicates that by 2020 the total value of the healthcare cloud market will be in the neighborhood of $3.5 billion. In a separate survey by Dimensional Research and sponsored by Equinix, 74 percent of North American survey respondents said they expected a larger budget in 2015.

With their increased budgets, providers will look for the following features in a cloud services solution (criteria are gathered from both surveys):
  • Security
  • Operational efficiency
  • Lower up-front costs
  • Access to on-demand capacity
  • Quick deployment
  • Easier management of IT staff
  • Direct connections to cloud providers
In response, disaster recovery and business continuity vendors are launching cloud solutions that meet healthcare providers’ specific needs. Check out how one healthcare organization is using the cloud to manage their data.

[Webinar Recap] Aligning IT Disaster Recovery With Workplace Continuity: Do You Know What the Options Are?

Closeup of phone, computer, keyboard and mouseThis week we hosted a webinar with the Disaster Recovery Journal. The session addressed a topic we’ve seen cropping up more and more these days: “Aligning IT Disaster Recovery With Workplace Continuity: Do You Know What the Options Are?”

The Two Essential Components of Business Recovery

As Rentsys National Sales Manager David Tedford explained during the webinar, two of your business’s mission-critical assets are its systems — such as office technology, communications hardware and business continuity planning software — and its people.

You need both to fully recover, but sometimes your IT recovery time objectives (RTOs) just aren’t in sync with your workplace recovery capabilities. This is especially the case now that at least 63 percent of businesses have an RTO of less than 24 hours [PDF], whether due to operational needs or compliance requirements.

Bridging the Gap Between IT Disaster Recovery and Workspace Continuity

[Chart] IT Availability Continuum
Finding the right disaster recovery (DR) solution is not typically an issue. After all, most people who manage their company’s DR strategy are familiar with the IT availability continuum, from traditional backup on the low-cost, low-RTO end to server and storage clustering on the higher-cost, short-RTO end.

You know how to recover your systems, applications and processes, but what about your employees?

As David pointed out during the session, you can find workspace continuity solutions that correspond with IT recovery solutions in terms of RTO. For example, a modular workspace has a similar recovery window as traditional backup. On the other end of the spectrum, a virtual desktop interface solution can keep up with the short RTO of server and storage clustering.

To hear about the available workspace solutions, the pros and cons of each and examples of real-life applications, view the webinar here.

Thinking About Moving to a Hybrid Cloud Solution?

Cloud, screwdriver and wrench
If you’re thinking about moving to a hybrid cloud solution for your enterprise, you won’t want to miss our latest post on the ContinuityInsights blog. In it, we address six key questions you should ask yourself when deciding if a hybrid cloud model is right for you. For example, does your IT team have the time and skills they need to make it work? Do you have compliance objectives to meet? What happens if you need to switch providers? Read the complete post here

The Importance of Implementing a Voice Recovery Solution

If the voice communications network went down at your office today, would you be able to recover your phone systems quickly and efficiently?

A lineup of business telephonesVoice connectivity is a crucial factor of a business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) plan, because not having the ability to receive or deliver calls negatively affects your company’s ability to do business as usual.

For instance, if a large part of your employees’ jobs involves talking on the phone with clients or prospects, not having a functioning voice communications network slows their productivity.

By the time you get your infrastructure back up and running, your staff could be forced to work overtime to deal with a backlogged workflow, incurring unnecessary expenses for your business.

In addition to the financial strain of being unavailable by phone, your prospects and clients might view you as unreliable if they can’t reach you to have their concerns addressed promptly, which could damage future client relationships.

A comprehensive BC/DR plan should include steps for implementing a voice recovery solution during a business interruption. For tips on how to keep your voice network up, check out our post "How to Prepare for Your Phone Systems Going Down."

Most Commonly Forgotten BC/DR Items

A red string tied around a finger as a reminderIf a disaster affected your city right now, what resources would you need to keep your business operational?

This question can be answered by creating a thorough business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) plan. However, implementing this type of plan can be stressful (especially if it's your first attempt).

We know it can be easy to forget some critical items along the way. We talked to a few of our DR coordinators to come up with some questions to remind you of what's important when coordinating your BC/DR plan.

How Will Your Data Be Backed Up?

We've talked about the importance of backing up your business-critical data, but don't forget to:
  • Keep a list of passwords in a secure location that more than one person can access in case the designated person is unavailable after a disturbance.
  • Arrange for on-site security to prevent someone from gaining unauthorized access to hardware containing your data.
  • Know which equipment you'll need to restore your backup data after a disaster and test it beforehand.

How Will You Supply Power to Your Building? 

Whatever type of facility you choose to use, make sure you plan how you will power it. Having a generator on hand (or using a third-party vendor to supply you with one) to keep operations running could be useful, but to make sure can keep the lights on during a power outage, don't forget to:
  • Preconstruct a manual transfer switch that allows for a quick connection of the generator to your building (if you source a rental generator).
  • Have enough fuel on hand to power generators.
  • Have a supply of low-wattage light bulbs to reserve generator power for office technology or other crucial equipment.

How Will You Communicate During a Disaster?

Being able to communicate with your employees, customers and the public is crucial during a disaster. When planning how to keep the lines of communication open, don't forget to:
  • Develop a list of employees' personal phone numbers and email addresses.
  • Plan how to communicate with your employees internally and how to address the incident with the general public.
  • Discuss with customers, investors and vendors beforehand how you will contact them after a disaster.

What Resources Do You Need at Your Temporary Workspace?

A business disturbance could leave your office building uninhabitable. You may have provisions for a temporary workspace in your BC/DR plan, but the details are what help keep your business running. When choosing a temporary office space, don't forget to:
  • Check the amount of bandwidth offered to make sure employees can work without interruption.
  • Make sure bathroom facilities are available.
  • Determine if your employees will need special accommodations such as a wheelchair ramp.
  • Coordinate the delivery of office equipment such as printers, copiers, fax machines, telephones and other office supplies.

The key to any BC/DR plan is testing. You'll learn where your weaknesses are and have the chance to solve any problems before a real disaster hits. For example, through testing, Mercantil Commercebank employees learned that they forgot small things like pens and paper. To learn about the importance of testing, check out this video featuring our expert disaster recovery coordinators.

Natural Disasters: Real-Life Horror Films

Man backlit creepilyWith Halloween right around the corner, we’re entering the season for horror movies. Some moviegoers enjoy the rush of adrenaline that comes with watching a horror flick and leave the theater thoroughly entertained. However, while disasters can be thrilling on the silver screen, they’re not enjoyable in real life. Natural disasters can cause immense damage and generate hefty business costs.

Fortunately, with a little bit of warning and a lot of preparation, you can prepare your business for a disaster and recover efficiently. We’ve noticed that a few things that happen in horror movies also happen before real life disasters. Here are a few signs that a disaster is coming and how to prepare for it.

Your Bottom Line Gets Slashed

Small businesses, which are hit hardest by natural disasters, suffer a median income loss of $3,000 each day that operations are down. The loss of income combined with the recovery and repair expenses causes some business to close temporarily while recovering. Unfortunately, 25 percent of businesses that close after a disaster do not reopen, which means it’s essential to avoid closing for any length of time after a disaster.

The most important aspect of disaster recovery is to actually have a plan in place. Some companies underestimate the logistics required to recover successfully and quickly after a disaster strikes. This disorganization only adds chaos to the situation and could ultimately be the reason they fail. Create a comprehensive disaster recovery plan and test it regularly so you’re prepared to keep your business running after a disaster.

The Lights Flicker

When a natural disaster hits, electricity is often the first thing to go. Particularly with the aging North American energy infrastructure, power outages are increasingly common. In the event of a power outage at your office, most of your technology will be inoperative and business will cease. You might think your employees can simply work from home, but there are several logistical issues with that method, such as bandwidth, VPN concentrators, terminal server sessions and more.

Instead, prepare your business to overcome power outages by arranging an alternate workspace ahead of time, such as a fixed-site business recovery center (BRC) or mobile recovery center (MRC). The technology in both a BRC and an MRC can be preloaded with your company’s data. If your employees can be temporarily relocated, a BRC is your best option, as it’s a full office building. However, if employees need to stay put, an MRC can be delivered to any location you specify so you can continue work even from the parking lot of your existing building.

The Phone Lines Get Cut

High-speed wind can knock out telephone lines pretty quickly and easily. When a massive natural disaster strikes, it could be days (or even weeks, as was the case during the Hurricane Sandy aftermath) before communication lines are restored.

Contracting third-party network and voice recovery services is the best way to give your business the resilience to recover from a communications outage. This will allow you to continue business and stay connected to your customers and partners during your disaster recovery efforts.

Don’t let these typical horror happenings put you out of business. To get started creating your plan, check out our business continuity plan checklist.