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Can an SMB business continuity strategy compete with larger firms?

When crafting a business continuity plan, an SMB must try and meet customers' enterprise-level expectations, while using its available resources to the fullest.

Organizations big and small are feeling the same customer demand for always-on, anytime, anywhere access to products...

and services, so it's not surprising to hear about small businesses thinking about their business continuity strategy in enterprise terms.

There are some obvious challenges with trying to achieve the same levels of resiliency and continuity as bigger organizations, but with current developments in backup, disaster recovery and IaaS, the opportunity exists for even the smallest of organizations to have DR plans that rival those of the largest enterprises.

The general business continuity strategy differences that become challenges for an SMB are pretty straightforward:

  • Budget. SMBs tend to bring in less revenue than enterprises, so that trickles down to the money available for business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR).
  • Available technology. Ignoring the cloud for a moment, there is a material cost to purchasing any kind of on-premises hardware. At some point, there is a cost floor to accessing enterprise-class hardware.
  • Staffing. IT staffs are smaller, so everyone wears many hats. In enterprises, personnel focusing on data protection take care of that function only or another related role, such as server management. This enables contextual expertise to be established, making recovery more accurate and efficient.
  • Time. Because IT members wear so many hats, no one has the time to ensure that BC/DR strategies are reviewed, tested and updated in an SMB environment.

Because of these constraints, it simply makes sense to use the cloud as much as possible to employ an enterprise-class business continuity strategy. To do so, take the following steps.

Define the recovery needs of the business. Identify the data, applications and systems that are critical to the business. Then, determine what the recovery time objectives and recovery point objectives are. Lastly, create logical groupings of each recovery set based on similar recovery objectives. What you'll end up with is the definitions of your organization's most critical technology and data in workload recovery tiers.

Consult a cloud service provider. Most SMBs simply won't have the expertise in-house to craft a proper DR and business continuity strategy, and choosing one of the major cloud service providers (CSPs) isn't always the best step. What you need to do is use the expertise of a CSP that eats, sleeps and breathes BC/DR. Have it create a plan that describes how your organization would specifically use one or more DR-related cloud services.

Determine how much help you actually need. Most CSPs can provide as much or as little hand-holding as you require. Look back at the staffing and time constraints within your IT department, and balance that against the cost of using a CSP to the fullest extent you deem necessary.

While easier said than done, it's important to recognize that budgeting more than you intended to spend on the BC/DR services you need to ensure some level of business resilience will be worth it.

This was last published in August 2018

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