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Disaster recovery for small businesses leaves no room for excuses

Are you putting off investing in disaster recovery efforts for your small business? If your reasons include a lack of urgency and funds, we have some news for you.

Small businesses face virtually the same threats as larger organizations, but while the challenges can scale up or down, the resources to meet those challenges do not. Resources often end up being far more limited at smaller organizations, particularly when it comes to DR.

Planning disaster recovery for small businesses is a common issue. From implementation challenges to maintenance and management, some SMBs choose to go without. Many SMBs have DR plans and capabilities that could be considered minimalist at best, while others are operating on a wing and a prayer. Fortunately, there are options available to help SMBs. What's most critical is that smaller organizations stop making excuses and start implementing change.

One recent megatrend is certainly helping: According to Gartner analyst Mark Jaggers, many SMBs are turning to SaaS platforms. With SaaS, DR concerns consist mainly of reviewing the contracts and the provider's DR capabilities and services.

There are numerous resources for small businesses to quickly learn about DR and take practical, time-efficient steps toward creating a suitable DR plan, said Eric Leland, a partner at FivePaths LLC., a project of the Department of Homeland Security, offers specific resources for citizens and small businesses on preparing for and recovering from IT disasters. The Small Business Administration also provides substantial DR educational tools, including video tutorials, checklists and information about local resources across the country for small businesses to take advantage of in their region.

Software vendors also often provide lower-cost system maintenance and tools for aiding DR for all varieties of systems both hosted, such as websites and web applications, and local software infrastructure, Leland said.

Challenges and excuses

Leland said many small businesses simply see a much greater risk in sacrificing time for IT disaster planning that could be spent on chasing the business opportunities they need to survive. "The flip side to opportunity is cost, and businesses often do not recognize that swift and quality data recovery from IT disasters is itself a business opportunity," he said.

Derrick Wlodarz, president of managed IT services provider FireLogic, said that one of the biggest challenges with disaster recovery for small businesses is that many companies tend to lean toward cost savings until a disaster actually strikes. The "we will take our chances" mindset is prevalent because enterprise-class DR tools often seem pricey and hard to justify in the face of not having experienced a major downtime event.

According to Leland, small businesses that have planned for potential disasters and mapped out recovery options can avoid losing substantial amounts of time and money, as well as current clients and pending opportunities.

Improvements and opportunities

Many services are currently providing basic tools aimed at disaster recovery for small businesses, Leland said. A huge advancement of the last several years is remote backup. A small business can quickly back up its computers using any one of the many competing services on the market, without investing too much time or money. Likewise, Leland said, website maintenance services provide critical site backups, updates and recovery tools at low costs that dramatically reduce the impact of hacking and crashing.

With the amount of potential lost revenues and productivity tied to each hour of downtime for the average SMB today, DR has become a dire necessity, and many don't realize it.
Derrick WlodarzPresident, FireLogic

Wlodarz pointed out how processes have changed significantly over the past five or 10 years for smaller businesses. First, not only have many SMBs moved to a purely digital or mostly digital existence for critical records and systems, but they are ever more reliant on these platforms for day-to-day production purposes. Previously, digital resources were a mere value add for many SMBs, and DR was considered a nice-to-have line item.

"But with the amount of potential lost revenues and productivity tied to each hour of downtime for the average SMB today, DR has become a dire necessity, and many don't realize it," Wlodarz said.

DR options on the market

On the other hand, Wlodarz said, there are now more options than ever when it comes to disaster recovery for small businesses, with many services having a maturity level that was only seen in the enterprise and Fortune 500 spaces previously. "Datto, SolarWinds, Carbonite and so many other solutions exist that bring previously unattainable feature sets down to the SMB for affordable prices," he said.

According to Wlodarz, Office 365 protection is probably the next big arena for DR discussion in the SMB space. "Most clients believe that Microsoft is doing backups for them. But the terms of service Microsoft spells out today in O365 clearly says this is not the case and that some form of third-party cloud backup is highly recommended by them," he explained.

Still, the SMB market is not as well served by DR vendors as it should be. According to Greg Schulz, independent IT advisor and consultant, there's a lot of room for improvement. "One of the challenges that SMBs have is they often look small, very small, all the way down to the sole proprietor and prosumer or hobbyists." he said. And that has tended to limit the interest of DR vendors focused on bigger ticket sales.

Schulz said it is worth looking around for niche companies that may be more able to serve SMB needs compared to the bigger players. No matter what, though, he said it is imperative not to go without DR capabilities. "If you have a safe deposit box or 50 bucks, you can get a high-capacity pocket drive and make a clone quarterly, and that's at least a start," he said.

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