A recent study by market researcher IDC predicts that global spending on IT products and services will increase from nearly $2.4 trillion in 2016 to more than $2.7 trillion in 2020. IDC says much of that growth will come from companies purchasing cloud, mobility and big data technologies as part of their “digital transformation” efforts.

In short, organizations of all kinds around the world will increasingly invest in “digital literacy,” using IT as leverage for the benefit of their businesses and our society as a whole.

Contrary to IDC’s findings, however, is a new study from Forrester Research reported on by Information Management, which reveals a “wide gulf between wanting and doing digital transformation.” Seems the desire to perform digital transformation is there, but there also seems to be a lack of ability to make it happen.

According to the report:

  • • Digital transformation is a high or critical priority for 70 percent of organizations surveyed
  • • More than 80 percent consider data and content integration to be extremely or very important
  • • But only 14 percent said their organization’s collective content is virtually all-digital today

Meanwhile, research from the Information Governance Initiative identified another shortfall. Also reported on by Information Management, the study found that most organizations lack a strategy for “long-term protection and access” of digitized content of all kinds.
Specifics of the research include:

  • • 98 percent of respondents are required to keep certain information for ten years or longer.
  • • 97 percent of information professionals surveyed said they understand the need for a specialized approach to preserve these assets
  • • But only 11 percent of respondents store data in systems specifically designed to ensure long-term protection and access

Both of these gaps can be closed by implementing a complete and comprehensive Business Continuity (BC) plan.
The topics of BC and Disaster Recovery (DR) often are often paired in IT discussions, which can muddle the distinction and relationship between the two terms. BC is a combination of process, procedure, policy and technology that assures an organization is capable of continuing to deliver products and/or services at acceptable predefined levels following a disruptive incident such as fire, flood, power loss, etc.

While having a good DR plan is an important aspect of BC planning, a good BC plans transcends specific tactics, aiming to a) prevent disruptive events from occurring and b) minimize impact when a disruption is unavoidable.

In light of these two objectives, here are three BC planning tips any company pursuing digital transformation should follow:

Integrate the Cloud into Your BC Plan

More than half of all businesses now use cloud computing, according to statistics from the IT research firm Neovise cited in a recent BusinessNewsDaily article. A significant portion of this demand is for what analysts call Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service or DRaaS.

One analysis by TechNavio predicts the market for DRaaS will grow at a compounded annual rate of nearly 55 percent during the next four years, giving small business managers multiple options for cloud back-up services. Still, recent studies cited by the U.S. Small Business Administration show that about two-thirds of small businesses maintain back-up data only on their premises.

In terms of BC, a balance of on-site and off-site backups is best. What if a storm, fire, flood, earthquake or other natural disaster forces evacuation from their facilities? Then restoring data from the cloud becomes the most efficient and effective means of maintaining continuity. At other times – such as an internet outage – turning to local back-ups becomes optimal.

Automate Both Back-up Routines

Many businesses already have automated on-site backup routines because removable storage drives are relatively inexpensive to connect to PCs or add to server racks. Nevertheless, remote backup routines, especially those involving cloud services, easily can become a case of “off-site out of mind.” When using a DRaaS provider, automatic redundant backups often are built into basic services. But that is no excuse for not checking.

Virtualization can optimize these routines. Virtual servers – i.e., multiple server environments constructed as software inside of one physical computer or across a series of them – are capable of running email, databases, websites and other applications. Not only do these virtual machines reduce the cost of hardware, they support BC by making disaster recovery easier and less expensive. Because virtual servers exist only as code, they can be backed up online like other types of data.

Ensure Full-Service Security for All

Intrusion attempts, computer viruses and malware are as much of a threat for your off-site provider as they are for your on-site systems. Deploy firewalls and filters for viruses, spam, and other types of malicious code and content between your business and the internet, and require any and all cloud-service providers to prove they have done the same. The biggest keys for DRaaS vendors are data encryption and identity verification.

Any business pursuing digital transformation must understand that a complete and comprehensive Business Continuity plan is not only practical, but critical. Today’s automation and cloud options also make BC processes less costly and relatively painless. There is no excuse for letting any gulfs or gaps widen.

(About the Author: Frank Picarello is chief operating officer at TeamLogic IT, a nationwide network of managed information technology services providers. His management career includes stints with IBM Global Services, MicroAge, Nortel Networks, All Covered and his own managed services firm.)

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