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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

Why 2020 Was the Year of Disaster Recovery

These three trends remind us of the value of our data.

Many companies in 2020 were forced to re-prioritize how their employees work and where they work. Organizations quickly shifted or increased their digital operations to maintain business continuity. Because of this fundamental shift, keeping systems and applications running 24/7 became critical for business survival. Consequently, one of the most important trends we saw in 2020 that will continue into 2021 is an organization's need for a robust disaster recovery plan.

For Further Reading:

Protect Your Data Before Disaster Strikes: Best Practices for Disaster Recovery Plans

Proactive Prevention of Five Common Causes of Data Loss

How Manufacturers Can Address Cybercrime in the Ongoing Pandemic 

2020: Increased Need for a Disaster Recovery Plan

In the past, some organizations looked at disaster recovery plans as an insurance policy they would never use, but 2020 has proven it must be more than that. You need a reliable disaster recovery plan to keep your business operational, no matter the disruption. This year proved disruptive for many companies, particularly with the transition of large employee populations to a remote workforce environment. This shift in priority benefited organizations that had already invested time and resources to develop a reliable contingent infrastructure to protect the organization from downtime and data loss. Those that didn't have that DR plan in place were scrambling.

Here's one example of what caused the concern. With most of the workforce operating remotely, organizations that still house their DR infrastructure in their physical data center faced challenges. The personnel essential to quick remediation for disruptions such as cyber attacks and power outages couldn't access their buildings. An organization must have a disaster recovery plan to quickly mitigate the problem without impacting business operations. In addition to a well-thought out plan for physical access, many organizations have also increased their cloud investment to provide an easy-to-access alternative. Many also realized cost advantages with this cloud-first approach.

2020: Disaster Recovery Plans Proved their Worth

Every company has always needed a disaster recovery plan. Some just didn't realize the criticality until the pandemic and remote work made it more apparent. It is not clear to most that they not only need a plan, but they need to routinely test it to make sure it is comprehensive. The COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires, hurricanes, and economic closures of 2020 shined a continuous spotlight on the problems, forcing companies to consider if they had the right plan.

The first step for most organizations to start a DR project is with a business impact analysis (BIA). The BIA helps the IT department and the business align on what should be considered mission-critical infrastructure. It also allows organizations to allocate the right budget for DR. Companies should also consider consolidating and using fewer partners -- perhaps only one -- for several services to optimize the infrastructure.

2020: Testing and Training Became More Vital Than Ever

Businesses also realized in 2020 they needed to conduct tabletop exercises to test the DR plan and learn from the issues uncovered. To effectively carry out their disaster recovery strategy, organizations also need to put a renewed focus on employee user education that includes cybersecurity awareness. It's crucial to take a proactive approach to training and employee awareness to fight off hackers who can easily attack overworked and unsecured networks during the pandemic.

Companies learned many of their employees were unaware of how to handle cybersecurity issues simply because they had never had to before. Without dedicated IT teams on premises and with malware attacks on the rise, companies had to make employees aware of what could happen and arm them with the tools to make sure it did not happen to them. For employees to understand the risk of downtime and data loss, they must know what could happen if they don't use the corporate VPN and a secure router, update their passwords, or click on a suspicious email.

2020: Importance of Data Availability and Backup

Data is the most valuable asset to most organizations, bringing insightful information to enable companies to make smarter decisions. If any disaster puts a company's systems down -- for even a short amount of time -- it can result in losing critical data and that will have a wide-ranging impact on customers and employees. In some cases, that data loss can drive a company out of business. Data backup is important to mitigate this risk; if there is downtime, there is no loss of data that could lead to catastrophic effects on a business.

Also, we have seen the increase in ransomware attacks in 2020 due to work-from-home vulnerabilities. These are getting more frequent and more sophisticated. It's essential to have backups in place to recover the data from these ransomware attacks without paying the ransom to the "bad guys." Solutions that replicate near-real-time data are powerful tools to mitigate this problem because they allow granular recovery of data from the point of just seconds before a cyberattack, which is why having a secure data backup and disaster recovery plan in place is imperative.

In 2020, many organizations adopted Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) as their DR strategy to ensure data and applications are safe, secure, and accessible. DRaaS provides faster implementation, increased business continuity, and potential cost reduction compared to traditional in-house DR infrastructure. In some cases, these reductions can be as much as 50 percent. This potential cost savings can be a significant driver for considering and adopting of DRaaS, especially when IT leaders are looking to improve DR capabilities with limited investments. Also, since it can be accessed from any location and doesn't require upfront investments or internal resource allocation, DRaaS has proven to be an ideal option during the pandemic.

A Final Word

The pandemic has upended the way the world conducts business and connects with others. Because of the acceleration of remote work -- and the malware attacks that came with it -- companies across the globe, no matter their location or susceptibility to natural or online disasters, will need to go into 2021 with definite and updated data recovery plans.


About the Author

Patrick Doherty is the chief revenue officer at Flexential where he leads sales, sales operations, marketing, solutions engineering, and channel and commercial management and has his finger on the pulse of Flexential’s revenue growth investments. He is responsible for results across the entire revenue process. Prior to joining the company in 2017, Doherty held leadership positions at a variety of organizations, including OnX Enterprise Solutions, Unisys Corporation, and Sungard Availability Services.

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