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Risk in Context

Three Keys to Protecting Critical Data in a Disaster

Posted by Jeff Colburn July 09, 2015

From Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to Superstorm Sandy in 2012 to numerous other catastrophes, business continuity plans have been repeatedly challenged over the last decade. When considering business continuity, physical assets and supply chains often come to mind first. But protecting valuable data is an indispensable part of the disaster preparedness and recovery process. And it’s sometimes overlooked.

Here are three steps you can take to safeguard essential data ahead of the next major storm or catastrophe.

1. Consider Backing Up to the Cloud

Hurricane Katrina taught many organizations the importance of locating backup servers far away from primary data centers, so that a regional catastrophe can’t take out both onsite and offsite servers. Taking the next step and using the cloud to back up your data can offer several benefits. For example, cloud backup services are often less expensive than purchasing and maintaining physical servers. Cloud servers also can offer greater storage capacity and enable speedier data recovery.

But the cloud does have its drawbacks, including data security: Are you willing to trust a cloud vendor to protect your sensitive backup data? Careful vetting of providers — including a review of how they protect and back up their systems — is essential.

2. Test Your Data Recovery Plan

As with other aspects of your business continuity and disaster recovery plan, it’s important to regularly test your ability to recover stored data. Consider either a detailed walkthrough of a crisis event or a simulation. Rehearsing the steps you’d need to take to recover and restore critical data can help you identify deficiencies in the plan and correct them before you face a real crisis.

3. Don’t Forget Your Suppliers

A major disaster can expose your organization’s vulnerabilities along your physical supply chains. Take a close look at your own business continuity plans as well as those of key suppliers. And don’t forget to confirm the preparedness of key data suppliers and vendors.

Many businesses rely on external parties to provide data or data processing services; for example, retailers typically process credit card transactions via third parties. Are these vendors putting as great an emphasis on data protection as your physical suppliers are placing on ensuring supply chain resiliency — and as you place on your own data security? If you answer “no,” you could be vulnerable and should involve these vendors in your preparedness strategies today.

Accessing organizational data quickly following a disaster can give you a jump on everything from critical insurance payments to assuring customers you are still in business. Make sure that protecting your data is an integral piece of your business continuity planning.

Related to:  Marsh Risk Consulting

Jeff Colburn

Jeff Colburn is responsible for the US operations of Marsh Risk Consulting (MRC) and is based in Washington, DC. He oversees the strategic development of MRC’s practices, consulting expertise, and talent.