Each year, as the Atlantic hurricane season approaches, many businesses realize they are at risk due to a catastrophic event called a “Black Swan.” Black Swan events are a constant source of risk in states like Florida, where many communities are subject to disruption due to coastal storms. This risk is particularly acute for businesses that rely on online data storage if there is a chance that their critical data could be lost or damaged. But the threat of Black Swan events is not limited to Florida, nor is it limited to large-scale disruptive events like hurricanes, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. The term is based on an old saying that assumed black swans did not exist, but the saying was rewritten after black swans were discovered in the wild. Consider the following scenario…
“We tend to think of disasters in terms of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Hurricane Katrina, or other mega-events. Sometimes, however, less notable events occur that can have a catastrophic effect on a business. In February 1981, a electrical installation The fire in the basement of the State Office Building in Binghamton, New York, spread throughout the basement of the building and ignited a transformer containing more than a thousand gallons of toxin-laden oil, originally thought to be PCBs , but the toxins were soon determined to contain dioxin and dibenzofuran, two of the most dangerous chemicals ever created. The fire was smoky and quickly filled the 18-story building with smoke. As the transformer burned, soot entered the building ventilation ducts and quickly spread toxic soot throughout the building The building was so contaminated that it took 13 years and more than $47 million to clean it up before the building could be re-entered or used. and its contents, including all paper records, computers, and personal effects of the people who worked there, were not recoverable. This type of event would be unrecoverable for many companies.” – Operations Due Diligence, published by McGraw Hill
What effect would a catastrophic hurricane that affected an entire region or a localized disruptive event such as a fire have on your business operation? Could you survive that kind of interruption or loss? As reliance on online data has grown for virtually all types of businesses, so has the risk that loss of your data could disrupt business operations and even lead to complete failure. In response to these threats, there has been an evolution in the approaches used to mitigate these risks as the volume of data online has continued to grow. Originally, the concept of disaster recovery (DR) emerged as a mitigation strategy that focused on recovering critical data after a disruptive event by giving the business the ability to restore disrupted IT operations.
Disaster recovery (DR) involves a set of policies and procedures that enable the restoration of critical business data and enables the IT infrastructure to be restored to a previous state. DR was originally seen as the domain of the IT department that was given the responsibility of mitigating risk. To minimize risk, system backups were scheduled frequently and aggressive DR plans were implemented that included server cold start procedures and data backups.
The goal was to restore the infrastructure to the last point where the data had been backed up (at that point, typically to tape). Acceptable DR practices at the time allowed for the IT system to be rebooted when power to the facility was eventually restored… Unless it was in a flood zone or the off-site backup storage facility had also been restored. been affected. In either case, the operation of the installation could be interrupted for a period of time and data restoration could also be at risk depending on where the backups were stored.
Now moving up the calendar… As technology has evolved, so have disaster recovery strategies, leading to new concepts that evolved into the requirements of a business continuity solution as a means of mitigating risk. Still seen as the domain of IT, as technology moved towards solutions such as shadow servers, distributed data locations, and high-speed massive data transmission with hyper-connectivity. Data no longer had to be “retrieved”, it just had to be connected in distributed locations where it could be accessed remotely. Business Continuity mitigated the risk of data loss and enabled a company to recover much more quickly and efficiently from a Black Swan event because its servers never completely failed.
Business Continuity originally encompassed planning and preparation to ensure that an organization’s IT infrastructure remained intact, allowing the business to efficiently recover to an operational state within a reasonably short period of time after a Black Swan event. Today’s technology has evolved into cloud solutions that place both data and applications in remote “cloud” locations, so it seems IT’s responsibility to mitigate the risk of online data loss or corruption has been resolved. . With fully distributed and highly connected solutions, some people feel that the need for business continuity may be fading away. Could not be farther from the truth…
The fact is that the risk was never solely in the loss of data, but in the loss of the business’s ability to operate. There are businesses that cannot tolerate any interruption in their operations. These include healthcare, insurance, and communications companies, critical logistics providers, transportation providers, and local governments. It is during Black Swan events that the services and products offered by these companies may be most needed. The requirements of other, less critical businesses, whose operations could be disrupted for days or even weeks, but which could face significant financial risk, may also make their continued operation a matter of corporate survival.
Today’s technology has completely abstracted business processing and user data by moving critical IT infrastructures to the cloud. Cloud technology allows users to work from remote locations, but use of the cloud does not fully mitigate operational risk. It means that people have now replaced computers as the critical path for ongoing operations. Business interruption is more likely because key personnel are not prepared to maintain operations during a Black Swan event. They do not have a facility that has been proactively planned to support operations during disruptive events that could last hours, days or weeks. Particularly in areas like Florida, where major natural disasters like hurricanes can disrupt services to entire communities, resilient businesses must prepare in advance for sustained operations during a disruptive event. A company’s ability to continue operations during times of distress is a measure of the companies’ resilience.
Business Resiliency – Takes business continuity to another level by making it the domain of operations management rather than just the domain of IT. When planning for disaster recovery or business continuity, the critical link is now the people needed to operate critical systems remotely. Yes, there are times when staff can work from home or from remote facilities that the company can operate, however this is not always a satisfactory answer and even when it is, companies often find themselves struggling to catch up. , trying to find out who. does what and “how can we do it in these circumstances” situations. During Black Swan events, which include regional disruptions like hurricanes or local disruptions like fires, many of the people the business depends on may not have power, internet, or even a phone needed to be able to work from home. Because you can’t put people in the cloud, Business Resiliency requires planning, training, and practice so your staff know how and when to move.
Resilient businesses integrate the Black Swan response into their ongoing operations so that when they are needed, at a time when the business and people are under stress, everyone knows how to respond efficiently and effectively and where to go for that response. . Business resiliency requires a dedicated facility that has been hardened to withstand Black Swan events and designed to provide the support services that people and IT infrastructure will need. Business resiliency requires proactive planning and the integration of operating procedures into companies’ standard operating plans to include remote operations by trained critical staff who have been mobilized to respond during disruptive events and requires proactive practice to ensure that, when they need remote operations, the people are ready.