The missing link in your disaster recovery plan

Eaton Electrical (Australia) Pty Ltd

By John Atherton, General Manager, Power Quality ANZ, Eaton
Monday, 04 December, 2017

The missing link in your disaster recovery plan

Electrical interruptions can spell disaster for your business, so it pays to not overlook the importance of power supply continuity.

The exponential growth in workplace digital devices means that having a disaster recovery plan for IT systems is critical for any business that wants to succeed. Yet the way we talk about disaster recovery is outmoded; discussion tends to focus on backing up as much data as possible (through cloud or physical storage) and minimising recovery time.

No-one disputes the importance of this process, but there is another key factor that’s often overlooked — namely, the power supply.

The ability to monitor and control power so that you can spot potential issues and resolve them, before they have a chance to escalate, is becoming an increasingly important tool, particularly in Australia’s current energy climate.

Research from PricewaterhouseCoopers suggests that power outages can have widespread ongoing consequences for IT systems — more than 33% of companies take more than a day to recover and it can take up to 48 hours to reconfigure a network.

More disturbingly, 90% of companies that experience a computer disaster and don’t have a survival plan go out of business within 18 months.

With this in mind, there are two key considerations small to medium businesses (SMBs) should keep in mind when preparing their own IT system disaster recovery plan.

Power disruptions

Power disruptions are on the rise in Australia, with 2016 seeing a 46% increase in reported power outages around the country compared with the year before. There are multiple contributing factors — a growing population and an increased reliance on technology among them — but perhaps the most critical factor is the current transitional state of the energy market.

As providers look to incorporate more renewable options alongside traditional fossil fuels, teething problems are inevitable. Though most are likely to be resolved in the long term, it still presents SMBs with power disruption challenges in the present.

Maintaining a continuous power supply becomes especially important for businesses that use large-scale physical storage, such as data towers. Some kind of cloud storage in addition to physical media is always advisable, but many businesses understandably value the relative convenience and speed that towers can provide when rapid restoration is required.

Power disruptions typically last 10 seconds or less, which doesn’t sound like a major issue in and of itself. But even these short gaps are enough to cause resets, restarts or damage to electronic equipment. Suddenly, a 10-second interruption can turn into 20 to 30 minutes of workday loss as systems are rebooted and devices restarted — and that’s assuming none of them were damaged by the power disruption in the first place.

This doesn’t even account for the potential data loss that can occur when systems are abruptly switched off; recreating lost work may take hours, or even days.

Of course, power outages are unpredictable. But an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) can help maintain the performance of devices and the security of stored data. In many cases they can actually help avoid the issue in the first place by maintaining a continuous supply, minimising the likelihood of an outage and enabling you to conduct business uninterrupted.

Power forecasting

When SMBs look at expansion, future power needs are often low on the list of considerations. Many businesses simply don’t think about it, with the possible exception of the potential impact on bills. But to better secure the future of your business, you need to guarantee supply and factor in room for growth.

This applies even more so if the business is set to move to new premises. Power supplies across the country are not necessarily created equal, and there’s not always a guarantee that a new location will be able to provide all of your power needs.

So, prior to undertaking any steps towards growth, power considerations should also be closely considered — not just for the immediate future, but projected for the next two years. With these calculations in mind, it’ll be much easier to ensure power problems are much less likely.

The good news is that innovative solutions are on the way. One of the more interesting possibilities is power storage. We’re all familiar with it at a personal level through household batteries, and backup generators have been standard procedure for some industries for decades (eg, hospitals) — but modern power storage looks to replicate such technologies on an industrial scale, and in a more convenient and intuitive fashion. It’s likely to become more prominent in coming years.

Looking forward

Ultimately, IT managers and CIOs are responsible for the efficacy of any disaster recovery plan their organisation undertakes. The real-world implications for overlooking the power supply can be catastrophic, costing time, money and potentially even the lifespan of the business itself — it’s tantamount to ignoring something as basic as antivirus protection.

With Australia’s energy situation and ongoing supply currently in something of a flux — yet prices still steadily rising — it has rarely been more important to ensure a steady power supply for your business.

Power isn’t just a convenience; it’s vital to the ongoing survival of businesses and the wider economy. If you don’t have power, you don’t have connectivity. Investing now may save your business in the near future.

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