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Three reasons small and midsize businesses need better disaster recovery strategies

disaster recovery
(Image credit: Image Credit: Dotshock / Shutterstock)

If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the importance of cloud-based disaster recovery and business continuity planning. Indeed, when local and state governments announced stay at home orders in the spring of 2020, migration to the cloud accelerated dramatically as IT teams scrambled to ensure employees could connect and collaborate remotely, as well as access mission-critical company data from their new home offices.

It was a move that especially impacted small and midsize businesses across America, with Flexera’s 2020 State of the Cloud report predicting that 70 percent of SMB workloads and data would reside in the public cloud by the end of the year. And with a separate study from Analysys Mason finding that more than a quarter of SMBs in the U.S. plan to increase their use of cloud infrastructure once Covid restrictions have been relaxed, the criticality of a cloud-based disaster recovery strategy has catapulted. 

But the truth is, the pandemic has just exposed some of the gaps that have long existed when it comes to enterprises’ DR and business continuity plans, especially in the SMB market where organizations have been held back by constrained budgets and limited resources. (1-in-5 small and midsize businesses don’t have a data backup or disaster recovery plan in place, according to recent Infrascale research).

Yet, all of these businesses run the risk of losing vital data and having their systems, operations, or services shut down by natural and man-made disasters, security risks, hardware failures and power outages. A recent report from the Uptime Institute found that 75 percent of enterprise IT managers and data center operators have experienced an IT service outage or downtime incident within the past three years. 

With this in mind, it’s becoming evidently clear that small and midsize enterprises need an effective disaster recovery strategy, specifically a cloud-based plan that accounts for their mass shift to digitization. Here are three reasons why.

Skyrocketing climate risks create hazardous conditions for businesses 

The unfortunate truth is that climate disasters have the potential to impact every business in some shape or form. Of course, phenomena like earthquakes and wildfires are more frequent in certain parts of the U.S., specifically states along the circum-Pacific seismic belt. But the reality is, the acceleration of climate change has significantly increased the likelihood of any area being hit hard by a rare weather event. The Texas freeze is perfect evidence.

And while the human casualties associated with catastrophic weather events like these are of course the main story, the impact that they can have on local businesses can’t be ignored. Take the northern California Camp Fire that ripped through more than 150,000 acres of land and leveled more than 18,000 homes and businesses. In addition to the devastating loss of property, many business owners also had to overcome severe downtime due to the destruction of valuable equipment and critical infrastructures like data centers and server rooms. 

According to the Ponemon Institute, this type of unplanned downtime can cost organizations $8,850 per minute — an alarming number with the potential to bring any business to its knees, especially small and midsize businesses who could struggle mightily to recover. In fact, many don’t. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 40 percent of small businesses don’t reopen their doors after a disaster.

With this in mind, an effective cloud-based disaster recovery strategy becomes that much more important, as extreme weather continues to imperil business continuity and in some cases, push organizations beyond the brink of survival.

Cybersecurity emergency threatens increased downtime

While businesses have been dealing with this unprecedented health emergency, it has become evidently clear that they’re navigating a cybersecurity crisis, too. Entire industries have been crippled by ransomware in the past 18 months as money-hungry cybercriminals show their willingness to go after the most vulnerable businesses that can’t afford any downtime.

In fact, a number of recent attacks on healthcare organizations have highlighted just how vital a cloud-based disaster recovery strategy is, with ransomware forcing the likes of Scripps Health to revert to old-fashioned, pen-and-paper based methods of working due to lengthy network outages in May. Furthermore, a similar outage at University Hospital Dusseldorf resulted in the first known fatality linked to cybercrime, when an IT system failure forced a critically ill patient to be routed to a hospital in another city.

The frequency of these incidents is rising exponentially (cybercrime was up 600 percent due to Covid-19). And SMBs have found themselves right in the center of the siege. According to Fundera, 50 percent of small and midsize businesses suffered at least one cyberattack last year, accounting for roughly $2.2 million worth of damage. Furthermore, cybersecurity company Morphisec recently found that organizations impacted by a cyberattack in 2020 needed up to a week to recover in most cases (53 percent) and two weeks in a fifth of incidents.

Showing no signs of easing, this incredible cybersecurity crisis is a prime example of the importance of a reliable disaster recovery plan, as failure to implement one means enterprises not only risk losing access to critical data and thousands of dollars, but it potentially leads to the loss of human lives, too.

Hybrid work environments push business continuity plans to forefront

Of course, Covid-19’s fallout has only exacerbated the risks listed above. With millions growing accustomed to working from home during the pandemic, it’s becoming increasingly likely that remote work will remain in some form, with many companies like Atlassian committing to allowing their employees to work from home on a full or part-time basis post-pandemic. A recent Envoy survey also found that roughly half of Americans say they’d like to mix remote and in-office work going forward (with a significant proportion even saying that they’d sacrifice a higher salary for the ability to do so).

It’s unlikely that SMB C-suites will be able to ignore these widely reported preferences, nor should they. But operating a business within a hybrid work environment does create extra technical complexities for IT teams managing service outages or downtime incidents. For example, if a major disaster hits, tech workers may not be able to get on site quick enough to repair devices that need maintenance, or even source parts or materials from suppliers impacted by extreme weather delays. 

Furthermore, this remote movement is actually substantially increasing the risk of downtime in the first place, for instance because of employees’ reliance on unpatched collaboration apps which have proven highly susceptible to attack. 

Indeed, skyrocketing climate and cybersecurity risks, as well as this mass movement to hybrid work environments, have required small and midsize business leaders to refocus on organizational resiliency and minimizing downtime. Off-premise disaster recovery has become a key component for them in their quest to do so, with organizations realizing the criticality of a simple and effective disaster recovery strategy in the cloud that protects mission-critical data, preserves productivity, and ultimately, safeguards entire organizations and their customers.

After all, as the business landscape continues to undergo this historic digital transformation, so too do the ways that an enterprise can be crippled digitally. It’s vital that small and midsize companies’ disaster recovery plans progress alongside this evolution.

Faiz Khan, CEO, Wanclouds

Faiz Khan is CEO of Wanclouds. Prior to founding Wanclouds, Faiz was an executive at Cisco and played multiple technology leadership roles. His latest assignment was leading the Global Cloud automation and orchestration organization. Prior to that, he has built the Global Datacenter and cloud practice and was the GM for Emerging Markets Technology Practices Organization. Faiz has an MBA in Computer Information Systems from Colorado State University.