• 27 May 2024, 07:15 AM

Tag Archives: disaster recovery

Navigating the Post-COVID Workplace: Resurgence, Downsizing, and the Importance of Unity

As organisations worldwide navigate the complexities of the post-COVID era, the workplace is undergoing a profound transformation. While there is a resurgence in workplace recovery initiatives, fuelled by a renewed emphasis on employee well-being and flexibility, some companies are downsizing due to the widespread adoption of remote and hybrid work models. Simultaneously, there is a heightened recognition of the importance of a cohesive team presence, particularly in emergency scenarios.

The Impact of Remote Work and Downsizing:

  1. Downsizing in the Wake of Remote Work:
    • The widespread success of remote work during the pandemic has led some organisations to reevaluate their physical office spaces. In a bid to cut costs and adapt to evolving work preferences, companies are downsizing office footprints, embracing fully remote models, or adopting hybrid work arrangements.
  2. Shifts in Company Culture:
    • The shift to remote and hybrid work has necessitated a reevaluation of company culture. Organisations are exploring innovative ways to foster a sense of belonging and collaboration among team members who may be physically dispersed.
  3. Challenges of Downsizing:
    • While downsizing may bring financial benefits, it also poses challenges such as maintaining team cohesion, preserving corporate culture, and ensuring effective communication in virtual environments.

The Role of Physical Presence in Emergency Scenarios:

  1. Emergency Preparedness and Unity:
    • One of the lessons learned from the pandemic is the importance of team unity in emergency scenarios. While remote work has proven its viability, certain situations may require a collective, on-site response. Organisations are recognising the need to strike a balance between remote flexibility and the importance of having a team physically present when urgent situations arise.
  2. Hybrid Models for Emergency Response:
    • Some companies are adopting hybrid models that combine remote flexibility with periodic in-person gatherings to enhance team cohesion. This approach ensures that teams are well-prepared to respond effectively to emergencies, leveraging the benefits of both remote and in-person collaboration.

Conclusion:

The post-COVID workplace landscape is complex, with organisations simultaneously embracing remote work, downsizing physical office spaces, and recognising the importance of a united team presence in emergency scenarios. Striking the right balance between flexibility and cohesion is key to navigating these challenges successfully. As workplace recovery initiatives evolve, companies must remain agile, adapting their strategies to the dynamic needs of the workforce and the demands of an ever-changing business environment.

Reality remains in the office

Working from home – the new normal or the new risk?

So, working from home is the new normal – right? We’ll never go to the office again – really?  The kitchen worktop or the chest of drawers in the spare bedroom makes for a great office – yes?  The kids screaming– isn’t an issue, the cat/dog pawing at your leg doesn’t intrude on your train of thought or interrupt the flow of the important client meeting on Zoom or Teams?  All is sweet then – carry on!

If you’re fortunate to have an office at home you may be spared some of these intrusions….  but note….. it’s an ‘office’.  For most, the home ‘office’ is a ‘make do’.  ‘Make do’s are either a pain or a novelty that eventually become a pain.  ‘Make do’ spaces are often a borrowed resource with such borrowing sometimes lasting only minutes.

The current crisis is sure to bring about some changes but, is going to the ‘real’ office a thing of the past?  For many reasons, we think it unlikely – although for sure, on the back of the novelty factor, the ‘we-can-work-from-home’ brigade , which range from those counting the pennies (believing it will save a fortune) to those with imaginations of a paradise, will strive to prove it is the new normal.

So why do we think the ‘real’ office is still here for a while longer……

Well for one, the majority of businesses are technically not ready.  Cyber criminals, though, are very ready!  The ‘real office’ may be well firewalled but, the likelihood of this extending to the home office, is small.  Wrapped within pages of GDPR legislation, businesses have many legal obligations for securing  data – especially that which is personal.  Aside the possibility of all company data being encrypted and ransoms demanded, those that flout the regulations can be heavily fined and Directors held accountable.    Home working – is it the new normal or is it the new  risk – a very big risk!

 

 

 

 

 

Disaster Recovery Testing – Will Your Plan work?

Disaster Recovery has become tougher due to ever-changing virtual environments.

Being able to recover from a disaster is consistently a top priority for IT managers. They’re constantly looking for ways to protect more applications, and to do it more economically with less downtime. But even with sustained investment, there’s still an alarming lack of confidence in how well these processes will perform when a real disaster event occurs.

One of the most ambitious projects an IT department will ever embark on is the creation of a Disaster Recovery (DR) plan. But IT professionals need to understand that creating the plan is only the first step in the process. No matter how carefully crafted it is, a DR plan has no value if it doesn’t work when needed or if only a subset of the protected data can be recovered and recreated. It’s important to understand that in addition to developing an adequate DR plan, a strictly adhered to change control process must be implemented so that changes in the environment can be reflected in the plan. Yet the reality of the modern data center is that change typically happens too fast for a change control process to keep up with it. Even if change control is adhered to most of the time, one small misstep or slip up can result in recovery failure.

Four Disaster Recovery monitoring must-haves:

  • Environment awareness. Disaster Recovery tools must go beyond application awareness and understand the environment so that changes to the application’s specific environment are detected and reported.
  • Hardware and software independence. DR monitoring should work across a variety of applications and storage hardware to analyze for inconsistencies.
  • Monitoring only. DR tools don’t have to actually move data — there are numerous hardware and software vendor products that do that. DR monitoring should therefore complement those solutions, not compete with them.
  • Work from a knowledgebase. DR shouldn’t depend on collecting information from devices for information. Organisations should develop their own list of best practices that’s used to check for DR gaps.

The proof is in the testing

Disaster Recovery plan testing is critical to identifying changes in the environment so that the plan can be updated or modified to include any new situations and to accommodate any altered conditions. Despite the importance of DR plan testing, full-scale tests can only be done periodically because they’re time consuming and often expensive to conduct. In reality, partial testing is more likely with a quarterly frequency at best; many businesses only do a full-scale test once a year.

Many businesses also have the added burden of multiple locations coupled with legal or compliance regulations. That means each location should conduct its own standalone DR test, This can potentially make the gaps between various DR sites and the primary site even greater.

The problem is that in between DR tests, many configuration changes take place. As a result, IT planners are looking for ways to monitor and validate their disaster readiness in between full-scale tests. DR monitoring tools are able to audit processes such as clustering and replication to ensure these systems capture all the data they need and store the redundant data copies correctly.

Configuration is the root of the problem

When a Disaster Recovery process like replication is first implemented, it’s installed into a known, static application state. The volumes have all been created and configured, and they can be easily identified by the replication application so that it can protect them. But as the application evolves, new volumes may be added so that more host servers can be supported. Or perhaps a volume gets moved to a different storage system so that performance can be improved, such as moving log files to an all-flash array. These additions or changes are often not reported to the IT personnel in charge of the disaster recovery process and, consequently, are left out of the protection process.

The configuration changes will typically be discovered during the next DR test and can be corrected then. But if a disaster occurs before the next scheduled test, data loss is likely to occur, as well as a failure to return the application to proper operation. In other words, every time a configuration change is made to an application, a DR test should be planned to make sure all the changes have been mapped into the DR process. In the real world, however, most IT budgets can’t support the expense of such frequent DR tests, and the IT staff is stretched far too thin to execute tests so frequently.

The bottom line

DR planning is never a one-time event; it’s a constant process that has to keep up with evolving service-level agreements and changes in environment. Given the realities of a rapidly changing business, it’s almost impossible for change control processes to keep up, and it’s equally difficult to conduct DR tests with enough frequency to be meaningful. As a result, most companies, especially large enterprises, should consider disaster recovery monitoring and outsourcing of the day to day processes.

For more information or to discuss your DR requirements further please contact us.

Do SME’s Really Need A Disaster Recovery Plan?

When it comes to keeping your business running, it’s important to have plans in place to deal with both good and bad times ahead.

Business continuity plans and disaster recovery plans are an excellent way to ensure the protection of your organisation, however, it’s easy to get the two mixed up. Many people assume that because they have implemented a business continuity plan (BCP) they do not require a disaster recovery plan (DRP), and vice versa.

It is true to say they are very closely linked, but to briefly explain; BCP’s take a more proactive approach to minimise and avoid the risk of downtime, whilst DRP’s focus on recovering from the disaster.

In this article we will look specifically at the business continuity plan, why it’s a good idea and why you should have one.

Generally people do not enjoy paperwork, and business owners understandably will see a business continuity plan as just another tedious task to complete that will probably go unused; so here are a few interesting facts which could highlight the importance of a BCP.

On average, a medium-sized data centre will experience over three downtime events each year, with the average power cut lasting over 3.5 hours. Source: Eaton UK

Some 77 per cent of UK organisations (approximately 4.2 million) experienced connectivity failures in 2016. On average, UK organisations were also found to have suffered 4-5 outages each during 2016 and a wait of six hours every time for service to be restored. Source: ISP Review

Just over half (54 per cent) of UK companies have been hit by ransomware attacks resulting in variable amounts of downtime (58 per cent of UK companies pay up to get access to data and systems again.) Source: Malwarebytes

Almost all (97 per cent) of network professionals in a survey by Veriflow agree that ‘human error’ is the most common reason for network outages. Source: Network World

Depending on your company’s area, losing vital business systems could ultimately cost you customers, because your existing customers could choose to go elsewhere. In addition to this the damage to your reputation and the lack of credibility if there is no BCP in place could be extremely costly!

Hopefully the above has persuaded you to think about the importance of having a business continuity plan so in the event of a power cut, connectivity issues, network outage or cyber-attack your business can ride the storm and get back to business as soon as possible.

If you’re under the impression that a disaster is unlikely to happen to your business, you might be mistaken. It could be something as simple as a staff member keeping watch of an absent colleagues emails whilst they’re on holiday and accidentally opening a cleverly presented, yet malicious, email. If that email contained ransomware, and the attack was successful, it would only take a few seconds for all the files on the computer and everything else connected to it – namely the server – to be encrypted.

Before you know it, your network is unavailable, staff are unable to work, and a disaster recovery plan is vital. In addition to downtime, failing to have a business continuity plan in place could cost a business severe reputational damage, and it could even raise certain compliance issues.

When you’re busy running a business, it could be easy to forget that you are a prime target for cyber hackers, and many have made the mistake of assuming that these hackers are only interested in going after bigger organisations. But, the fact is that when you’re an SME, your cyber defences are easier to hack, reason being you will not have the same budget available to you to spend on cybersecurity as a larger business, and attacking a small company carries a much lower risk than attempting to infiltrate a larger organisation, as the cyber criminals are less likely to be caught.

Not to mention, hackers know that a small business is more likely to pay a ransom to have files decrypted quickly, so that business can get back to normal and downtime can be minimised. That’s why it’s essential that you have a robust Business Continuity Plan in place, so you can avoid these situations, and deal with them swiftly should the need arise. Below, I outline the key aspects you should take into consideration when creating a BCP.
Key considerations for a Business Continuity Plan

  • Key business functions – what is going to cost your business the most if they are affected by an IT outage or system downtime?
  • Minimise the risk – what could be done to avoid critical business functions being affected by downtime, implement preventative solutions such as cyber awareness on risks/threats, staff education and network monitoring,
  • Recovery times – what could you do to reduce the time taken to get critical business functions operational again? As a suggestion, increase the frequency of backups for critical data.
  • Failover plans – what could you do to get important business functions operating during an incident? For example, if your head office suffered a power cut could staff work from another location?

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