Mark Connell, Senior Logistics Architect for WiseTech Global, explains how planning for the unexpected can turn terrible catastrophe into a minor setback.
Sydney, Australia, April 5, 2016. What would be the impact on your business if the roof blew off your building? If your offices filled with water? If you suddenly had no access to your IT systems?
Two of our customers found themselves in this situation recently when a tornado struck south of Sydney, Australia. While not every business has to weather natural disaster, asking these questions does provide a pretty strong incentive to assess your own disaster recovery (DR) plans.
We can talk at length about the pros and cons of paper vs automation, of running on-premises or cloud-based systems, of investing in processes or just winging it, but only a real world example can put it painfully into perspective. When the tornado ripped through the industrial park without warning, it put two of our customers out of action. One of them was only down for a matter of minutes, while the other took several weeks to recover. What made the difference in their recovery time?
One Disaster, Two Scenarios
When the tornado hit, one company had its supply chain operational software in the cloud, while the other had all its systems, including backup, on premise. Within hours, one of them had automatically redistributed all data entry, customer service, billing, and administration tasks to its branches in Brisbane and Melbourne. All jobs were simply reassigned to the next available agent in a seamless process that kept their customers operating. Employees worked from home in the following days, through their secure log-in to the company’s complete file set. There was no disruption to its business, no damage to its reputation.
The other company lost everything. They scrambled to find temporary accommodations, buy new IT equipment and resorted to handling business manually on paper, effectively putting its operations out of action. Ultimately, they also had to restore their customers’ faith in their service.
Yes, there were dramas for both companies as they had to relocate and fit out new offices. But guess which company simply set up new equipment, logged in, and resumed business as usual: the one with, or the one without the cloud-hosted platform?
By taking the time in advance to have a plan and set up their workflows, the company operating in a cloud environment was able to quickly, easily, and accurately redistribute their jobs.
With businesses now so dependent on IT, guaranteeing continuity is critical to survival. Many of us still know how freight moves using paper-based systems. We still know how to write con notes and pick orders. But maybe some of the new generation doesn’t. Because they’ve grown up on automated systems, they may not have the ‘old knowledge’ to fall back on in a crisis.
And your customers may know just as little about how to deal with system losses. So much of their business depends on having real-time insight into the activities you’re carrying out on their behalf.
Once you’ve developed a DR plan, it has to be tested. Have you tested the data you’re backing up? Is it picking up new data sets as you add to any processes? Exactly where are your backups – ideally not on a set of disks on the shelf above your servers.
Creating a comprehensive disaster recovery plan, and testing it regularly to maintain its currency, is a large investment in effort. I know time is money, but avoiding that commitment could lead to real pain. It’s your own insurance plan to minimize disruption. No one would avoid insuring their trucks or other physical assets, but many don’t insure their technology platforms (the keepers of their intellectual property) with the same determination.
If you want to minimize the DR plan development effort – for your IT needs at least – then a move to the cloud largely shifts your risk to the professionals for whom uptime is the core responsibility, effectively outsourcing the cost and management of your business continuity.
Whichever approach you choose, have an effective disaster recovery plan, so in case of emergency your revenue won’t be swept away if your business is ever hit by a disaster. Do what you can now to ensure your business stays up and running, even if the unexpected happens.
Mark Connell is Senior Logistics Architect for WiseTech Global
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