Winter Storm Janus Can’t Stop Me!

I enjoy storms.  I love the otherworldly urban scenes that the snow creates, but I am more excited about the ability of my hosted customers to continue to operate as though it were any other business day.  This is one of the main advantages of hosted solutions, and it is known as Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery, or BC/DR.

What is BC/DR?

BC/DR mostly comes into play on special occasions, like the arrival of our friend Janus today.  Many businesses choose to batten down the hatches on a day like today and tell their employees to leave early or not come in at all.  While many company employees enjoy a spontaneous day off, business owners, sales professionals and finance executives know there is a significant cost in doing so.  Business Continuity enables your business to operate regardless of the circumstances, and Disaster Recovery allows you to recover from a situation where your physical assets have been compromised.

How does BC/DR help my business during an emergency?

There are 2 components to BC/DR that are meaningful for businesses: uptime and availability.  Uptime simply means that your critical systems are working.  With hosted solutions, the “brains” of any system that you rely on for day-to-day operations are physically located in a data center like this one.  These data centers are built to handle the worst conditions, and have redundant connections for both power and the internet – meaning: more uptime availability for their customers.  Having near-guaranteed uptime means that regardless of the situation, your employees and customers will still be able to reach your critical applications.

Availability is a step beyond uptime – it means that the system is accessible by your personnel and customers.  What good is an organized filing cabinet if you can’t be in the office to use it?  How good is your company’s high-priced phone system if it can’t reach your employees during a day like this?  How effective are your employees without access to their desktop computers that they can’t bring home? Looking out on the cityscape today and reading through social media, it is evident that many of the businesses are closing their doors early – and with that, access to the engines that make them run.

An example of BC/DR – hosted Unified Communications

Unified Communications (UC) describes the ability of a system of communications tools to become unified for efficiency.  Asking different providers what they call UC will usually produce varying results based on their specific product offerings, but these days it is usually a combination of several of these services:

  • VoIP
  • Email
  • Instant Message
  • Presence
  • CRM/database integration
  • Shared company portal
  • Mobile integration

When these applications are hosted and they are accessible from anywhere, your employees and customers can operate remotely as well as they can operate in the office.  From my UC One app, I can instantly see which of my coworkers/partners/customers is at their desk and available for my requests and questions.  Access to all of a business’s critical information is exactly the same as it would be in the office.  Even if I lose power, I will still have the ability to operate on my iPhone with each of these services.  It’s going to take a lot more than 10” of snow to stop me!

Worst-case scenarios

Everyone on the East Coast remembers Hurricane Sandy and its impact on our lives, both professional and personal.  During that superstorm, many came to understand the abilities of certain companies to come through with, or to fall down on, their DR promises.  There are several horror stories where customers were completely down with phone and internet service for days.  It’s one thing to be able to operate remotely during a storm, but quite another to have all of your critical services be completely unavailable for ANY period of time, regardless of your location.  Don’t let this happen to your business when it doesn’t have to.

For the majority of businesses, it is simply not worth the capital and operating expense to build and operate a data center themselves and hosting their own critical applications adds much operational expense.  That being said, data center real estate is the most expensive business real estate there is, and is sometimes (not always) a hard pill to swallow when you compare the cost of maintaining your own services at your business.  The question you need to answer is: How efficient do I want my business to be?  As more and more businesses look to the cloud for these services, the next logical question is: How efficient are your competitors?