Should SMEs Pay Attention To Business Continuity? Isn't The Answer Obvious..?..

Singapore is largely a stable environment to do business.  Sheltered from most natural calamities.  In such a backdrop, it is natural for most SMEs to take business continuity (BC) as an afterthought.

When we discussed redundancy, endusers tend to brush it off with a 'it-won't-happen-to-me' mentality.

Outages do occur.  Such as the power black-out which happened not too long ago and left numerous operations in complete standstill. 

Freak incidents do occur, such as rapid and heavy downpour.  One such situation which caught several retail operators off-guard along Orchard Road in 2011 is still fresh in many people's memory.  And gave rise to the word 'ponding'.

Redundancy and BC strategies can take many forms.  And it is usually unrealistic for most SMEs to be covered at every single point-of-failure.  This is an approach I constantly adopt with my team for clients to ensure key areas in their operations have some form of contingency plans if disasters do strike.

A case in point, is an education and consultancy SME -  with 100 headcount and operates in several countries in ASEAN - has a requirement to securely connect to branch offices around the region.  While conducting an internal assessment of their IT network, several users expressed high level of frustration caused by 'periodic breakdowns' and ‘slowness’ when accessing central servers over several years!

Methodology and Solution

I was invited to submit an IT network and tech refresh proposal.  Consultation covered their present links and how they were connected, which technically, there was none.  Files were emailed back and forth in their modus operandi.  Backbone infrastructural systems had multiple single-point-of-failures.

After several rounds of negotiation, we were selected to go deeper into the nuts and bolts of their IT networks.  And to basically overhaul the entire IT architecture carried out in phases. 

  • Site-to-site VPN over mobile VPN client was the initial solution, but as the number of users grew, workload increased and overloaded the firewall appliance.  An upgrade came at the right time, and a site-to-site VPN was proposed and established 
  • WAN links for redundancy to ensure minimum disruption and BC.  Proposed for customer to subscribe to two fibre broadband connections, both links were configured for internet access and failover objective
  • A hybrid environment is in the pipeline tapping onto Office 365 eco-system. This can aide greatly in collaboration efforts

Benefits

  • Site-to-site VPN clears bottlenecks.  Greatly increases the workflow, reduces frustration of staff members
  • Encryption was enabled to secure connections between two sites
  • Redundancy allows staff members to operate seamlessly even when one link goes down
  • Phase-by-phase deployment method facilitates pilot-testing and training for endusers.  This helps in change management process and buy-in

BC covers several aspects in a business, from human resource, such as key-man planning to technology redundancies.

So should SMEs pay attention to BC?  Isn't in obvious?  

'Yes, it is obvious. But..'  As far as SMEs are concerns, there is always a 'but'. And rightly so.

If you are facing this dilemma, talking to your trusted IT partner would be a good first port-of-call.