The employee who has never arrived at work one morning to find their PC is not working is in the minority. When it happens, the day’s plans go to pot: not only is the day’s work delayed, but if the problem is serious they may well end up repeating yesterday’s work because the PC was probably not backed up.
If they work for a large organisation they can seek help from experts in the IT department, but if they are working for a smaller business they could end up sorting out the problem themselves. Disaster recovery at the personal level can cost businesses of all sizes dearly because PCs are one of the most poorly managed parts of any organisation’s IT infrastructure.
Businesses take more care of their servers. Even small businesses back up their servers regularly, the majority on a daily basis. So that’s alright then? Well, not really. Just having a recent server backup does not mean that a small business can be up and running quickly on the morning the staff arrive at work after the main server has failed.
Most small businesses have a server – some have more than one – but these servers are often not managed by an IT expert. More than likely they are managed by the managing director or some other business or financial manager. While they might have been diligently backing up the server, most organisations in which a non-IT expert is responsible for IT have never rehearsed for a server failure. When disaster strikes they will be likely to experience a lengthy disruption.
Some small businesses use a server merely as a way of sharing files and a place to back up. But the most common use of servers is for running shared businesses applications, so when a server fails, many parts of the business will also stop.
Large businesses are able to mitigate this risk by separating people and IT. Data centres running critical applications are often physically separate from the offices where people work. When disaster strikes, employees can be moved to new locations and still access the same IT resources. The data centre itself is often a more secure facility, but to be on the safe side many large businesses will have a fully redundant backup data centre. Such luxuries are not beyond the means of most SMEs.
Many SMEs already ensure critical applications are offsite. The most common example is email. Most businesses consider email to be a critical application, and many SMEs rely on an externally managed service. This may not have been a conscious decision: it was just the best way to do things when the business was set up.
There are other ways in which SMEs can manage IT out of house. Many other applications are available as managed services: accountancy, CRM, ERP and storage can all be bought as a service from external suppliers that manage it all in shiny data centres with enterprise-level management, backup and fail-over facilities.
But even if an SME feels it cannot manage without its own server running applications that are unique to its business, this does not mean the risk of disaster cannot be mitigated. There are plenty of third-party organisations that provide offsite computing resources, or that will host and, in some cases, manage servers.
However it is achieved, there is no reason for a small business to be at the mercy of a total IT failure, but the majority are. This offers plenty of opportunity for resellers to improve things for their SMEs.
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