February 21, 2013 | Written by: Ethann Castell
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Risk management is an essential part of managing any business operation. Disaster recovery is a critical IT capability to ensure business continuity. But how many of you consider a 75-year-old woman as a major risk to your business? Let me warn why you might need to put her right up near the top of your list!
You’ve gone to the cloud
Let’s assume that you’ve moved your business completely to the cloud. If you’re true-blue, then your might use a combination of cloud-based services including:
With such an environment you enjoy all the benefits of reduced costs, increased efficiencies, better agility, and ability to respond to changing business conditions. In this way, you might be even more flexible in regards to allowing your employees to telework, flexi-work (flextime), and even use their own.
So thanks to the cloud, your business is booming, your customers and employees are happy, the sun is shining, and all is good with the world.
So what could possibly go wrong in this scenario?
Watch out for granny!
Well, if you happened to be running your business in Armenia during 2011, you would have been in big trouble. Big enough trouble to make a dent in the profits of any business.
You see, in 2011 the country of Armenia lost all Internet services. So all your cloud-based solutions would have been unreachable and therefore your business would have ground to a halt.
And the cause of this catastrophe was a 75-year-old woman in the neighboring country of Georgia who single-handedly stopped all Internet access to Armenia during 2011.
And rather than being the result of a diabolical plan, the woman had simply cut into the trunk Internet cable in the hope of finding some copper that she could sell for scrap metal. She probably hadn’t even heard of the Internet!
Can’t happen here. Think again.
I’ll grant that in your country the odds are that multiple Internet “pipes” are coming into the country and they are probably buried deep underground away from the prying people.
But a quick search on Google shows that Internet outages are not uncommon at all. And I personally know of a financial services company in Sydney, Australia, that lost its Internet connection and had to send traders downstairs to the local Internet café so that they could continue trading.
How this is relevant to your business
The short answer is that you are using an ISP for connectivity and ISPs will always be subject to failure. So as you move more and more of your IT infrastructure to the cloud, you need to start asking yourself questions after the impact to your business of losing all access to these cloud-based systems.
What is the impact of not being able to access your CRM system, not being able to place a new customer order, or even worse, not being able to process your employee payroll?
And perhaps worse is that you have no control over rectifying the problem. You need to understand that this is different from being able to simply walk into your IT department and put pressure on your network administrators to rectify the problem. With the cloud, you are largely at the mercy of you ISP and their technical support at the end of the phone line.
Internet connectivity becomes critical to business continuity
The key point here is that after you move to the cloud, your Internet connection becomes potentially the most vital piece of infrastructure. And it is one that often you have virtually no control over.
Most businesses, large and small, will have their Internet access through one of their local telecommunications companies. Service-level agreements (SLAs) can vary between providers, but small and medium businesses in particular might find some nasty surprises in their provider’s SLA. It’s well worth double-checking exactly what your current SLA covers.
What you can do to ensure business continuity
You can take any number of steps to maintain business continuity through ensuring connectivity to your cloud-based system. Here are several to consider:
- Check your SLAs with your current Internet provider. Check the fine-print in regards to exactly what the SLA covers. Also remember than SLAs can and are broken so you need to have a plan to cope with this situation.
- Consider having a low-bandwidth Internet connection established with a backup ISP to which you can easily reroute your traffic in case of emergency.
- Consider having spare prepaid 3G and 4G SIMS or USB dongles on hand (and possibly some spare tablet or notebook computers), which you can connect to the Internet in case of emergency. Also consider purchasing these items from various telco providers.
- Consider using a virtual private network service such as the one provided by AT&T.
I hope that you‘ve learned two very important points:
- Have a plan in place to ensure business continuity when you lose Internet connectivity.
- Never under-estimate the power of the elderly!
Since writing this post, a man in Sydney, Australia was caught by police after having severed local Internet cables several times for no apparent reason. It just goes to show that Internet services can be disrupted almost anywhere in the world.