business continuity

Industry examples include: GIS mapping (airborne and marine) firms, archaeologists, engineers and more.

Now that there is a viable cloud alternative for just about everything, there are some businesses that continue to need to maintain a server in their office. This can be used to accommodate substantial amounts of data that need to be readily accessible, like video or images. Or to host business applications that might not have a suitable cloud solution in place yet. 

Chances are, if you fit into one of these categories you are already using a cloud hybrid IT system. Your email is hosted with Microsoft 365, perhaps you are using SharePoint and OneDrive, or have your accounting software cloud hosted. Let’s assume your Microsoft 365 data has a third-party cloud backup to protect your email and documents.  

From a business continuity standpoint your cloud-hosted services are mostly immune from the traditional disruptions we see with on-premises servers.  

What about a power or internet outage at the office?

Staff can work from home.

And what about failed server hard drives, burst pipe, database server update gone wrong? For businesses using cloud-hosted services these concerns do not exist. 

That server you continue to have running the old database or application you rely on still needs a good business continuity solution. This is true especially should one of those more traditional disasters strike. 

So, what does modern business continuity look like for on-premises servers? 

First, it is important to distinguish between business continuity and backup.

Traditionally backup has meant we make a copy of our data, and we can restore it from that backup if the original copy is lost. While backups protect our data, they do not protect our productivity. Restoring from backup requires time and requires something to restore to. If your server has a major failure, this means that we must procure a new server, or at least components like hard drives, so we have something to restore to. Any time it takes to get that equipment ready, and the data restored is going to be downtime and lost revenue.  

Business continuity systems provide a backup of your data for simple restores, for example, an accidentally deleted file. The important distinction is that they also allow us to quickly boot up a copy of your server(s). Booted up just as they were moments before the failure. Staff can get back to work almost immediately and work on that system (if required) until the live system is fixed. If it takes hours to diagnose a hardware issue, days to procure a new server, and days to restore the data, employees will not be sitting around waiting for that to happen. That productivity and revenue is protected, along with your data.  

Now that we know what we are aiming for with business continuity, here is what that system should look like.  

  • Continuous. Ideally, continuous snapshots of your servers are taken hourly, so little work is lost, and systems can be restored close to the time of the failure. Having only one daily snapshot could mean losing a whole day’s worth of work across your entire staff. 
  • Cloud hosted. While most business continuity systems have a local device that can run a copy of your servers, the most vital component is the cloud-hosted offsite. This isn’t just an offsite copy of the data but the ability to run your servers from the offsite datacenter. In the event of a total server or office loss this means your servers are up and running and accessible remotely.  
  • Tested. These systems need to work all the time. If disaster strikes and we need to call on our business continuity system, it is critical that it performs perfectly. Regularly verifying and testing ensures everything is ready to go without surprises. 

Which business continuity solution is right for you, and what that will cost will depend on the on-premises infrastructure you have remaining. One server hosting accounting software will cost much less than a business that still has a local file server, database/SQL server, or Remote Desktop Server. 

Migrating functions and data to cloud hosting should be a priority but in cases where that is not yet possible, we want to ensure we are still fully protected.  

Let's talk about business continuity systems