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Combating Coronavirus in the Data Center Through a Comprehensive Disaster Recovery Plan

Dan Johnson

Dan Johnson
Global Director, Compliance & Continuity

The impact of coronavirus is now felt all over the world, taking a hit on businesses and employees alike. From company-wide work-from-home mandates to supply chain disruptions, company leaders have been forced to create plans of action to protect their workforces and business outcomes in the long-term.

What many may not realize is how intensely coronavirus – or any other pandemic for that matter – can impact the heart of a business; its data center.

With employees inaccessible or working off-site, COVID-19 has the potential to disrupt data center operations for hundreds, if not thousands, of businesses. Data centers play a key behind-the-scenes role in providing mission-critical support to retailers, hospitals, government agencies and everyone in between. Downtime can cost a business $9,000 per minute, but the impacts can be even more severe, such as data center support to emergency agencies, like 911 calls. Consider that Microsoft encouraged nearly all of its employees to work remotely, unless they work in the data center because of its critical nature in keeping the business running.

A disaster recovery plan is an organization’s only reprieve from a critical threat like coronavirus to the data center. One of the biggest misconceptions about disaster recovery plans is that there needs to be different plans or nuances within a plan to prepare for any type of disaster or challenge. The problem with that theory is you’re inevitably going to miss or forget to consider a specific occurrence that could arise. A solid disaster recovery plan will encompass a holistic roadmap that accounts for a wide array of threats, from physical risks, like natural disasters or illnesses, to cybersecurity problems.

There are three things to consider with every disaster recovery plan that will enable companies to tackle potential threats like coronavirus.

  1. Ensure your plan is tested and updated regularly. Business continuity and disaster recovery plans should be updated and tested at least annually. If you don’t have a work-area recovery site, the best test is a “tabletop exercise.” A tabletop exercise is an activity in which key personnel – i.e. any stakeholders identified in the plan – are gathered to discuss various simulated emergency situations. By annually testing plans, teams become more aware of the processes involved to adequately recover from a disaster
  2. Consider a mobile alternative. Most companies don’t provide backup or recovery for mobile devices. With employees working remotely, now is an optimal time to implement mobile device backup, or as an alternative, a centralized communication and collaboration system. Your plan should include specifics around how mobile action can be taken in the midst of a threat.
  3. Use cloud backup as much as possible. Cloud backup eliminates the need for a physical presence in the data center because all company data and services would be automatically migrated and run from the cloud. A BCP may include backup storage plans or specifics on how to navigate shifting workloads prior to an event. If you’re looking to lean on a vendor for this option, ensure they have their own business continuity plan in place and the ability to keep your business up and running in the midst of a pandemic, natural disaster or otherwise.

There’s no way to prepare or plan for every single emergency that could challenge your data center, so it’s important to test and update business continuity plans annually, at minimum, to ensure your organization is adequately prepared to react to any adversity. With regularly planned tests and updates, you will spend less time updating your plan and more time preparing. A best practice is to use different scenarios every time you test. Don’t always use a fire as a scenario for your tabletop exercises – switch it up. Have a cybersecurity breach tabletop exercise, and include your cybersecurity team to make decisions about malware or data loss. Have a severe weather scenario and discuss where employees would shelter, and afterward, provide assistance for the recovery effort. Mixing it up will ensure your company is ready for anything, even something that came on as suddenly as the coronavirus outbreak.

View our complimentary resource to learn how to test your company’s disaster preparedness.

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