Have You Planned for the Non-Disaster?

On a recent commuter flight, as we were preparing for landing, it became apparent that the passenger next to me was a little uneasy about flying – and even more uneasy about landing.  Maybe it was a combination of the very small aircraft, the heavy turbulence we were encountering, or some other disastrous images that he couldn’t clear from his head. Regardless, he did a commendable job of keeping it together until…suddenly the landing gear dropped down from its hidden compartment in the engine mounted on the wing.  A totally normal operation, particularly if he had observed it retracting into that compartment shortly after takeoff.  However, my friend was so focused on the warning signs of a major disaster that he was caught totally off guard by this unexpected event and nearly leapt out of his seat as a result.

Similarly, how often in business, and IT business in particular, do we plan for the unlikely catastrophe and overlook the more likely surprise of the unexpected?

When I meet with customers, and the subject turns to disaster recovery, most of them by now have some kind of documented (though rarely tested) plan to invoke in the event that a meteor strikes their data center or a hurricane takes out their call center.  But they seldom have a quick or certain response when the question is…well, less disastrous.  Imagine that your fiercest competitor unexpectedly closed its doors or landed on the front page of the paper for corrupt business practices or bankruptcy filings. Would your infrastructure be able to take on all of the activity that would now likely be headed your way? Or what if your flagship product was suddenly the subject of a large-scale recall or defect? Could your current operations handle the onslaught of customer inquiries and any required efforts to remedy the situation? Especially with all of the social networking channels that would very likely be activated to propagate the details of your misfortune.

Now I know that disaster recovery is by far the most talked about use case for the cloud; however, I am not just referring to cloud computing for additional capacity or cloud storage for data recovery. Consider the variety of cloud and “cloud-like” solutions out there to help enterprises bundle together a comprehensive solution to handle the unexpected event, regardless of its magnitude.

How about incorporating a content delivery network (CDN) to supplement your internal resources and distribute large-scale software updates or product patches from the edge of the network and not from your core internal assets. Or in times of unanticipated volumes to your website, CDNs could be used to deliver a “lite” version of your content or a splash page explaining that you are experiencing unusually high volumes of traffic. This technology has been around for years, but I am still surprised how rarely it is part of a DR plan.

Another part of any good recovery plan should include your ability to communicate with your employees, key partners, and suppliers.  Cloud or network-based audio and video conferencing can be there to provide timely and on-demand information and updates to your key personnel.

Finally there are VoIP-based contact center solutions that are designed around a multi-tenant, shared infrastructure, allowing temporary capacity to handle peak call volumes without additional infrastructure cost to you. And because the equipment resides in the cloud, not on your premises, it can be there to take over if your internal resources are unavailable.  A final benefit is that it can be configured to distribute overflow calls to “non-traditional” agents, like off-duty employees, sales folks, and remote workers who can help answer calls in your time of need.

So, as you begin to shortlist your key business initiatives or look for ways to advance your cloud adoption priorities for the coming year, it may be worthwhile to take another look at your disaster recovery program and make sure that it not only covers you from the unthinkable, but also from the unexpected.

The Networking Exchange Blog Team About NEB Team