Continuity Insights speaks with Walt Thomasson, Managing Director at Rentsys Recovery Services, about how business continuity professionals can streamline their organizations’ disaster recovery solutions, mobile recovery trends, the importance of testing, and recovering multiple locations.
Continuity Insights: Some organizations try to save money by developing an internal recovery solution. What are some of the considerations organizations should keep in mind when considering this option?
Walt Thomasson: The main consideration they’ll need to account for is that technology needs to be up-to-date. Often companies will use older equipment and transition last year’s model to their disaster recovery fleet. However, this can become an issue if last year’s model is not compatible with the company’s current hardware and software. For example, most older PCs do not meet the requirements to run Windows 7 and many of its associated software applications.
In addition, many companies take comfort in the assumption that they can obtain equipment from their OEM or VAR. But while OEMs might be able to provide hardware at a moment’s notice in a local recovery scenario that is limited to a business’s facility or town, OEMs are not equipped with adequate standby resources to supply companies with the equipment they would require in the event of a regional disaster. Most important, they are not as willing to sign a contract guaranteeing availability of the equipment at time of disaster.
CI: Recovery time objectives (RTOs) are a key metric when considering mobile recovery options. How can external mobile recovery solutions be built into business continuity plans in a way that ensures RTOs are met?
WT: Often the RTOs determined by management are based on the time in which they need particular business groups to be up and running. What’s not considered is how long equipment will take to arrive and the time it takes to rebuild the company’s infrastructure. In most circumstances mobile units can start arriving as early as 24 hours from the initial declaration. The only way to tell how long this entire process will take is through testing. Many times testing is done on applications but not on entire businesses. In order to establish a realistic RTO, management should conduct a thorough implementation of the crisis management plan and regularly test all systems that make the business function.
CI: What trends are you seeing in the mobile recovery marketplace?
WT: All-encompassing packaged solutions versus the customized solutions of the past that focused on specific scenarios. As mobile recovery is developing further, the standby costs and actual declaration costs are going down. Now, preconfigured, all-inclusive packages are placed under contract versus the historical highly customized solutions.
Another trend is managed recovery, where the recovery provider can configure systems, load software, prepare the network and build phone systems so that at the time of the disaster declaration, the provider can basically hand the keys over to the client, and they’re ready to start working. This has been done in the hot-site industry for some time; however, providing this same level of service in the client’s own parking lot is a new development.
CI: Many organizations, even small- to medium-sized businesses, have multiple locations that must be covered by business continuity plans. How can mobile recovery be employed by organizations with facilities on opposite sides of the country?
WT: The advantage of mobile recovery is that the solution goes to you versus you coming to it. The customer has the option to choose the location for delivery at time of disaster. Do they need to recover their Boston office or their Atlanta office? A turnkey mobile recovery solution will cover both.
Historically you had to have a hitching post installed, and that location was designated as the recovery location. Not so anymore. Hitching posts are the minority in terms of connectivity solutions, and wireless point-to-point and satellite are the majority.
The flexibility of customers being able to tell their provider what facilities to recover at the time of the disaster allows nationwide coverage, or a blanket continuity solution. There is one contract covering the worse-case scenario of the company’s largest facility. The resources covered under that contract can be shared and utilized by all businesses units and affiliates across the United States and Canada.
CI: How can business continuity professionals differentiate between mobile recovery solutions that are truly effective and those that simply sound like they will work?
WT: Business continuity professionals should be very comfortable with the provider’s resources versus the number of customers they have in a region. They need to ask the hard questions, such as “How is the provider going to recover the 100 contracts they signed in southern Florida?”
Business continuity professionals should also consider the mobile recovery company’s experience, how much testing the provider offers and most importantly, whether the testing is done at the client’s location as if it were a real disaster scenario. They should also look at whether or not the provider has dedicated resources utilized only for recovery customers. They should understand where the technology and communications will come from, and if the provider doesn’t own the hardware, whether the subcontractor has the same delivery commitment to the client that the provider does.
CI: Business continuity professionals often struggle to show a return-on-investment (ROI) for preparedness initiatives. How can mobile recovery help the bottom line?
WT: One of the biggest concerns in the past has been the actual cost of a declaration. Freight, support expenses, communications (like satellite bandwidth) and equipment usage were unknowns until the customer invoked their plan. Today, with over 15 years of declarations behind us, we can be very specific on declaration costs, helping customers control these costs in advance and work with insurance providers to determine realistic expectations.
Also, as a provider, we don’t define what a disaster is; therefore, our customers can utilize Mobile Recovery Centers (MRCs) and all the technology associated with recovery to solve defined problems in their organization, such as declaring use of our phone technology to handle overflow for their call center during peak seasons (like tax season or the holidays) or using servers to test new applications for a short-term period.
CI: As someone who works in an industry built on risk, disasters and uncertainty, what keeps you up at night?
WT: I think as a whole the lack of preparation we see in the industry is what keeps me up at night. We get calls almost weekly from companies that are going through a disaster. They state we are exactly what they need, but we can’t support them because they don’t have a contract in place. We also see customers who put mobile recovery on their contract as a placeholder to solve audit problems, but they never plan on using the solution, and as such, they never test it and then expect everything to work perfectly at the time of the disaster. These two scenarios are unfortunate and easily preventable.
For more information, visit http://www.rentsysrecovery.com/