Almost half of midmarket firms have poor disaster recovery plans, according to one estimate. Follow these steps to be sure you're not one of them.
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The House of LaRose, a beer distributor in Brecksville, Ohio, should have been a festive place on New Year's Eve a few years ago. The midmarket, family-owned company had just moved into a new $30 million, 300,000-square-foot facility, where a state-of-the-art warehouse management system ran on an Oracle 10g database, helping a fleet of trucks deliver tens of thousands of cases of beer a day across the state, 12 million cases a year.
Then the motherboard on the company's Novell NetWare system burned out, triggering a cascade of server failures that brought business to a halt. LaRose had one of the more sophisticated IT environments among beverage distributors in the U.S. -- but it didn't have a disaster recovery (DR) or business continuity (BC) plan.
IT administrator Dan Brinegar called Novell, which said it would take three days to get a new motherboard. So he called around Ohio until he found one he could borrow, allowing the company to get back online in a matter of hours. "It was really a wake-up call," Brinegar says. "The whole company comes to a screeching halt if the ERP system goes down."
Disaster recovery used to be reserved for large enterprises, but in the increasingly 24/7 business world, more and more midmarket firms are finding they can't afford not to keep things running. And high-availability requirements are growing all the time. Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., estimates that enterprises have doubled the number of mission-critical database applications in the past five years. Yet many firms remained poorly prepared. A Gartner Inc. survey found that almost half of midmarket and large enterprises had relatively weak DR plans.
"Your business is only as good as the integrity of your data," says Ricky Bajaj, a business division manager who is in charge of disaster recovery at Telco Solutions, a midsized electronics manufacturer in Franklin, Tenn. Telco recently overhauled its BC/DR strategy, deciding to outsource the function, a common solution in the middle market.
More and more companies don't have a choice. Publicly traded companies face Sarbanes-Oxley Act mandates for data retention, while private companies in industries as different as the wine business and finance must meet government regulations for record-keeping and service continuity.
"Even when regulations don't explicitly mandate BC/DR planning, regulatory bodies require that companies comply with their audits and requests for information no matter what," Forrester analysts Rüdiger Krojnewski and Bill Nagel noted in a recent report called "Planning Your Next Disaster." "Failure to do so due to a disaster or other business disruption is not an excuse -- and regulators can add insult to injury by levying fines for noncompliance exposed via the inability to recover from a disaster."
While DR planning may be more challenging for resource-strapped midmarket businesses than large enterprises, there still are basic ways to ensure a timely recovery and maximal continuity. Here's a guide to crafting a DR/BC plan.
This was first published in October 2007