Disaster recovery planning: come rain or shine
In Cayman Captive 2008, Ron Sulisz, chairman of IMAC, highlighted hurricane season 2008 as a chilling reminder of the need for all financial services providers in the Cayman Islands to maintain up-to-date disaster recovery plans. With Hurricanes Gustav, Ike and Paloma all giving Grand Cayman serious cause for concern within a period of a few weeks last year, the potential for catastrophic business interruption was brought into clear focus.
Hurricane season offers an obvious threat to the smooth running of Cayman enterprises, but savvy business leaders understand that business operations can be adversely impacted at any time of the year. A burst water main, power outage or health epidemic are all examples of situations where a predetermined plan for disaster recovery is essential.
Communications and IT systems have become the backbone of all organisations. Loss of either sensitive client data or access to key business tools for any period of time has the potential to significantly affect cash flow, stakeholder satisfaction and reputation. Organisations must therefore ensure the continuous availability of their critical business applications and associated data. A robust plan to ensure uninterrupted access to these critical assets must form a key element of any disaster recovery initiative.
Why is continuous access to applications and data so important for Cayman businesses?
At a time when Cayman is consistently in the international spotlight, IT downtime is something that businesses here, of any size, simply cannot afford. When dealing with your business, clients have come to expect consistent levels of performance and response equal to anything that they might experience in North America, Europe or the Far East. Compliance standards also make reliable and efficient access to business applications and data an important capability.
How can organisations address these critical IT challenges?
Traditionally, organisations have addressed the issue of IT disaster recovery by simply replicating their primary environment. Whilst this offers a means of satisfying the disaster recovery challenge, there are disadvantages to the approach.
Replicating servers and data storage can be an expensive proposition at a time when the global economy is causing a squeeze on IT budgets. In addition, it may be difficult to achieve the geographic separation of IT assets necessary to provide a truly robust solution. Finally, because of the high cost of ownership associated with initial deployment and ongoing support, this traditional model has typically been out of the reach of smaller enterprises.
Is there an alternative?
‘Utility computing’ is an approach that offers a compelling and economic alternative. Consider solutions that allow your business to run applications on world-class IT infrastructure but pay on a‘utility’ basis, in the same way that we all pay for electricity or water. Utility computing offers an opportunity for businesses of all sizes to achieve the continuous availability of applications and data that traditionally has only been available to larger enterprises, and at a fraction of traditional costs.
How do the services work?
Utility computing solutions are deployed on servers and storage networks, either in Grand Cayman or overseas, which replicate the equipment that has been traditionally installed in an office. Instead of organisations having to buy, install and support this equipment, they subscribe to a service tailored to their needs through a service provider such as WestTel Ltd. Businesses then access their applications and data over a network connection (e.g. Internet or private circuit).
… and what are the benefits to a business in Cayman?
The high upfront costs normally associated with buying hardware, installing equipment and ongoing maintenance are all avoided. Customers instead ‘host’ their critical business applications (e.g. Microsoft Outlook) and associated data (e.g. client e-mails) for a predictable, low monthly fee. This immediately frees up capital and, therefore, as a side benefit, has the potential to improve the bottom line.
It is also important to understand that as long as staff can find any Internet connection, critical applications and data can be accessed efficiently and businesses can remain operational. Imagine being able to relocate key staff members to another part of the world but continue operations as if they were still sitting in George Town. A business can remain operational even if critical staff have to operate away from their usual place of work, either on island or overseas.
That’s a huge potential benefit.
That sounds amazing, but can my business really afford these services?
As these services are provided for a monthly fee based upon the type of application being run and the amount of data that needs to be stored or replicated, this capability is available to absolutely anyone, from industry powerhouse to sole trader. The barrier of upfront costs traditionally associated with solutions offering this type of capability is removed and the monthly fee includes all ongoing support. Remember also that your service provider will offer you a service level agreement to ensure that the utility environment is always available for your business.
Calvin Morton is vice president of sales and marketing at WestTel Ltd. Its business team can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org