Firms’ discuss their biggest business continuity challenges

Microsoft, Frontier Technology, and Double-Take Software recently held a round table seminar focused on Business Continuity Challenges. The aim of the meeting was to assess firms’ pressing business continuity challenges and issues, on both an on-going basis and in the light of the recent coalition budget cuts. The IT partners were also on hand to provide information about the latest Microsoft virtualisation and business continuity solutions and give practical advice to delegates.

The group consisted of a mixture of legal, financial, media, and public sector organisations, the delegates were from IT, regulatory, and business continuity backgrounds. Despite the differing disciplines, all agreed that their biggest business continuity challenge was communication and getting buy-in and funding from the business. Business Continuity has no instant return on investment and is extremely difficult to measure; therefore it is often pushed into the background in favour of fee-earning activities.

Frank Fischer from Frontier Technology provided advice: “Firms need to start looking at business continuity as an insurance policy. We ensure our homes and cars without a second thought; it seems crazy not to insure our businesses.”

Delegates felt that too much responsibility was placed on the IT department in regards to business continuity and that it is a much wider business issue. Management seems to think that by making IT responsible for disaster recovery/business continuity the problem will go away but then fail to recognise the fuller business issues.  In most firms, there is a shortfall between the management’s expectations and what IT has provisioned.

Getting the correct technology in place is the easy part, communicating with staff members on how to use IT in the face of a business disaster is much more difficult. All firms agreed that including the business in stress testing was a good method to gain acceptance and increase communication.

Delegates unanimously agreed that their biggest business continuity issue was communication and getting buy-in and funding from the business

“Most of our colleagues do not realise how heavily they rely on technology,” remarked one attendee. “We conducted a survey and a substantial number of the team members did not recognise that their desktop computers and telephones were part of the technology that they use every day. In light of this, we asked colleagues how they could possibly complete their work if we took away their phones and computers. The message really hit home.”

Shock tactics and major events have previously engaged in senior management.  Delegates agreed that after 9/11, senior management definitely took more notice and invested in business continuity.

When stress testing, one firm took a person from each department and staged a business disaster, removing the use of IT, telephones, and important members of staff. They found that this improved business continuity buy-in and communication. Staff saw how important an effective plan for business continuity challenges was and told other members of their team.

Maria João Freitas, Business Continuity Analyst, ITV, emphasised the importance of implementing business continuity management. She felt that the BS 25999 guidelines provide vital advise when looking at the business as a whole and making sure that the roles, responsibilities, and strategies are clear. Delegates generally felt that the guidelines helped with senior management take-up, giving something tangible for them to work toward.

Frank Fischer urged delegates to interact with their suppliers and find out about their business continuity policies. “I have been contacted recently by a number of suppliers instructed by their clients to implement an IT business continuity plan.”

Frank Fischer, Frontier Technology  “Firms need to start looking at business continuity as an insurance policy. We ensure our homes and cars without a second thought; it seems crazy not to insure our businesses.”

After the recent recessionary markets, most firms – especially those in the public sector – found that budgets are still extremely tight. A number of public sectors firms have been advised by the government to get the best out of the infrastructure they already have and to redeploy technology.

Microsoft solutions are certainly a good answer for firms who have budgetary constraints. Julian Datta from Microsoft commented that “Virtualisation is a fantastic enabler for business continuity. A virtual machine is effectively a collection of files, and thus, opens up new opportunities around migrations, upgrades, backups, and disaster recovery.  Microsoft’s Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 is a free download, enabling organisations to start their virtualisation journey even when budgets are low.”

Again after the recession and staff cuts, having sufficient personnel to fully support business continuity was another issue cited by delegates. Frank Fischer explained how an outsourced business continuity service could provide the necessary support to firms in this situation. “Frontier Continuity Service provides a fully outsourced business continuity service, we can remove your IT staff from the process, which means that you do not have to dedicate as many staff to business continuity.”

IT solutions to maximise your efforts

Both Julian Datta from Microsoft and Michael Hoskins from Double-Take Software showcased the benefits of combining Microsoft Hyper-V and Double-Take technology.  “It provides real-time replication and failover for virtual machine environments. The solution is cost-effective and truly safeguards your firm” commented Hoskins.

Cloud computing to outsource business continuity provides another excellent solution, especially for those firms that have limited resources, funding, and time.  “Frontier Continuity Service is a hosted business continuity solution that uses private cloud technology to securely connect your network to our data centres. With no capital investment required, it is affordable regardless of your size or industry sector,” explained Frank Fischer, Frontier Technology.

The roundtable meeting discussions highlighted that business continuity is not just about technology and careful planning. To have an effective disaster recovery scheme, firms need to improve communication and buy-in from the business. More training and education is required to ensure that staff take more interest in business continuity and consider it an important part of their agenda.

The meeting was very heavily subscribed and proved popular with the delegates so on the 30th September Frontier Technology, Microsoft and Double-Take will be holding another ‘Business Continuity in a Microsoft World meeting’, looking into these disaster recovery solutions and business issues in more detail.

Download the Microsoft and Double-Take PowerPoint presentations from the meeting and find out more about how their solutions can benefit your firm. To find out more information about Frontier Technology’s affordable hosted business continuity solution, Frontier Continuity Service please click here.

For more information about business continuity planning, training and solutions please contact one of the consultants from Frontier Technology on 0845 603 6552 or info@frontiertechnology.co.uk