Continuity in a Nutshell

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By Phil Adcock, Technical Director

This Article Was Originally Published in iNTERGAMINGi Magazine, 2013

A range of factors in today’s global outlook has prompted a number of organisations to review the level of their disaster recovery (DR) preparation. We have undertaken a number of DR reviews for a range of organisations over the summer.

By far the biggest issue we have seen is that the DR platform has not kept pace with the production systems. This means that any real invocation of the DR systems would not be effective and in some cases invocation would not be possible. In many cases the DR plan was managed completely by the IT team.

This resulted in a technically elegant IT solution but a total disconnect from the real business requirements. Resolving this disconnect between business management and IT management can be one of the most important factors in achieving a coherent business centric approach to business continuity planning.

"Domicilium operates an award winning 21,000 sq ft next generation hosting facility, one of the first of its kind in Europe."

Most businesses consider DR a technical problem, what we really need to conceptualise is the idea of business continuity. After all business continuity is what we are really trying to achieve. Without a clear steer from the business management it is virtually impossible for IT managers to build a strategy that is fit for purpose.

Once we start to think in terms of business continuity, organisations start to get this important aspect of risk management right and traditionally difficult issues like authorisation to purchase capital equipment can be made in a structured manner delivering the strategic goals of the business. The steps to establishing and maintaining a coherent business continuity plan are surprisingly simple.

At Domicilium we believe that the most important document in the company is the business continuity plan. This is a document written in plain non-technical language and owned by the business. Each department in the organisation should own their own part of this plan and it should clearly state what is required in the event of a disaster.

It is clearly important to consider geographical, technical and vendor diversity when deploying the DR platform. Whilst the concept of locating DR in the same jurisdiction as the primary platform might carry a relatively attractive price tag, it seriously depletes the usefulness of the platform.

The Isle of Man remains the popular location for DR deployment for a range of businesses from the finance sector to high volume e-business platforms. The island is a low risk jurisdiction that is politically stable and has high capacity resilient communications. These benefits coupled with an abundance of power make it among the most attractive locations for DR and high volume online trading platforms.

"Domicilium also operates points of presence in London Telehouse and Manchester Telecity that form part of its core network."

Domicilium operates an award winning 21,000 sq ft next generation hosting facility, one of the first of its kind in Europe. The facility is situated in a semi-rural location close to Castletown in the Isle of Man, which has a population of a little over 3,000.

Many businesses outline a need for emergency office space as part of its DR platform. Domicilium can provide DR suites that can host staff in the event of a crisis or connect businesses to their preferred office space.

Domicilium also operates points of presence in London Telehouse and Manchester Telecity that form part of its core network. These locations have been strategically chosen to connect the Domicilium network directly into the heart of the European and Asian communications infrastructure while maintaining physical diversity between cities.

Testing of DR platforms should also involve the testing of the business continuity plan and should occur at regular intervals. We would recommend that two invocations occur each year to ensure that the platform is fit for purpose. At least one of these invocations should involve an attempt to replicate some of the difficulties that an organisation may encounter during a real invocation. An example would be whether the business is capable of successfully invoking its DR while the senior management of the company are unavailable. Many organisations find the results of testing this sort of scenario quite surprising.

Political problems around the world have again caused many organisations to review their risk registers. DR plans are again being reviewed and in some cases written for the first time. For many organisations a multijurisdictional approach offers the level of risk mitigation that the business requires. Following the business continuity approach that we have briefly outlined will ensure that this important aspect of risk management becomes embedded into your organisation.



Phil Adcock is the founder and chief technology officer of Domicilium Group, a leading data centre and network provider headquartered on the Isle of Man. He is a graduate of Lancaster University, UK, holding a Ph.D in computer science. Phil is a chartered fellow of the British Computing Society and a member of the Internet Society and Association of Computing Machinery.