Is your estate in order? What about your data?

Death is one of the guarantees in life yet, as optimistic human beings, we are very bad at preparing for it. Is your business ready for the day your IT falls apart?

The time and cost of writing a good will that clearly states intentions and assigns assets is negligible when compared to the complications that can arise from a poorly written one. It ensures disputes between beneficiaries are less likely to arise and assets are reasonably distributed. Simple and obvious, but frequently overlooked or mismanaged.

The fallout of a poorly managed can be years of frustration, family feuds and legal actions that can massively erode the value of the estate; making the creation of a will seem like a trivial expense.

Business succession planning with multiple partners is every bit as complex.

Of course, I am in IT so my focus here is not on succession; it is on planning for death. In our case it is the death of business systems; server failure or data loss, network failures or other disasters that have the potential to damage your business short term or permanently.

In Australia we are still underinvesting in risk mitigation tools for our company data and it is time we took stock and did some planning to ensure we have the right systems with the right protection and the right recovery solutions in place.

There is no doubt that as SME business owners we all chose to take risks, and it is clear that with a tough economy we are choosing not to mitigate our data risks sufficiently.

We are using IT systems more intensely than ever before and are happy to underinvest in the recovery systems that will prevent disaster. System failures are inevitable, especially when combined with underinvestment in the primary infrastructure that is growing old and exceeding manufactures warranties.

My comment here is not a popular one but I feel it is important to put it out there. IT requires a sensible budget and as our businesses require more IT systems, more storage and more connections it is important that we plan our IT spending suitably.

It is time people assessed their disaster recovery capabilities and put appropriate tools in place to recover from the failures that will happen.

A simple formula to calculate the value of these systems is average hourly cost of staff x anticipated recovery period plus loss of revenue from downtime. If this cost over two or three days is frightening, imagine what will happen when the delay turns out to be a week or more.

The good news is that there are a number of cost-effective solutions that make use of server virtualisation and online backup that can reduce recovery periods to minutes or hours depending on the investment made.

If you as the business owner have not been presented with options for solutions already then chances are your IT advisors are working at a tactical level and have not considered either the risk or the solution. It may be time to bring in specialists who have solutions at hand to assess and give advice. This is called Disaster Recovery Planning or DRP.

Elements of DRP include looking at how much data you can afford to lose: is it a few days, a few hours, a few minutes or less than a millisecond? Did you know some systems will copy the volatile data from RAM as the system fails to ensure nothing is lost? This is critical if you are a bank where one transaction can be a large sum of money; not so critical if you are a small business working on emails and a few spread sheets.

DRP will also look at recovery periods and ensure testing is done to establish how long a recovery will really take. Good rehearsals reduce the down time from days to hours. The review should also consider critical data vs non critical data and a number of other hygiene factors.

Please don’t wait for the inevitable failure; assess your risk and begin the process of mitigating that risk intelligently. Ensure minimum levels of protection are put in place and scale up from there, depending on the cost to the business of failing to recover.

Of course, if your estate and your business have no value, there is no risk and no work to do. You don’t need a will and you won’t want a backup solution.

David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.


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