US statesman Benjamin Franklin was famous for many things and for one in particular: his proclamation that “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”. Well, Benjamin, it seems like modern technology and inflation have conspired to add a couple more items: server crashes and data security breaches. In other words, it’s not a matter of if these events will occur. It’s a matter of when. It’s true that robust quality IT products can push out the when so far that it seems to disappear in the distant future. However, smart organisations make the assumption that both things will happen and take appropriate precautions.
Server crashes are of themselves the commonest cause of business interruption today, although with differing impacts. What may be a minor annoyance for an accounting department that must wait ten minutes for a server reboot may be a catastrophe for a financial markets broker in the middle of a peak trading hour. Solutions range from regular backups to cold standby and hot mirrored data centres. Remember that as technology changes, so do notions of reliability. RAID data storage for example, once touted as one of the best and most reliable solutions, has since turned out to have disturbingly long recovery times. It’s no good getting your data files back next month if you needed them this morning.
The other addition to the list is the data security breach. Sooner or later, someone is going to mislay a post-it with a user ID and password on it, or one of those security holes that IT vendors are constantly plugging will be left open. While this may lead to attacks on systems, at least you can take measures to protect your data. Encryption is the watchword. Standard encryption methods available today make data meaningless to anyone without the encryption key (so keep that key very securely!). So in conclusion, reinforce business continuity by aiming for the best and preparing for the worst with adequate precautions against both crashes and breaches.