Business Continuity Awareness Week

The western coast of India is experiencing terrible cyclonic storm named Tauktae, this week. I am sure we are all watching the disruption, destruction this cyclone is causing. Fortunately, Mumbai-the business capital of India, was narrowly spared. But it is easy to imagine what would have happened if it were to have landfall on Mumbai. What an apt timing for annual event of The Business Continuity Institute(BCI)’s BCAW, which is Business Continuity Awareness Week(May 17-21, 2021), to spread the awareness about need to plan face such and other business disrupting events. There is a old proverb which says meet success like a gentleman, and disaster like a man. Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery(BC/DR) is the need of hour.

Despite the fact that we all experience the losses incurred during such events, the businesses are still underprepared and are not investing their time and energy enough to face the such unavoidable circumstances. I am in IT professional for many years and I am working in BC/DR domain close to 8 years now. With the advent of computers few decades back and proliferation of Internet, and data all over, in recent years, the need for businesses to have effective BC/DR strategy is more than relevant now. The natural disasters such as Tauktae cyclone, earthquakes, are not the only reason for business disruption, even man-made events such as wars, riots and more prominently, ever looming danger of cyber-attacks, also can cause serious business disruption. That can result into revenue loss, customer attrition, reputation damage, as we all have are quite aware.

Let’s look at business continuity(BC) and disaster recovery(DR) mean here. The term business continuity is essential plan to continue to function during distressful event, And disaster recovery is really concerned about how do plan to normalcy from disasters. DR is really part of BC. Many a times, DR is concerned with data, which might get destroyed, lost.

So how does one go about it? The key here is planning. For that you one need to understand and outline objectives. One may want to think about kind of strategy you want to have to when certain type of disasters strike. For that you want to carry out business impact analysis.

Disasters don’t take place everyday, but when they do they are very bad. So it is not really any good only having the plan, but not periodically testing it to see if it really works. The word periodically is very important here. The reason is that you business environment is changing all the time. You plan needs to be updated to reflect new business environment and also needs to be tested to ensure that your BC/DR objectives can be met in case of disasters. Many of you must have experienced mock-drills in your offices or in your buildings in the past. They are nothing but to test if the plan works.

Here are the some of the concepts and terminologies in the BC/DR domain and their general in meaning in lay language. This blog is just for awareness and make you realize the need here. This blog is not (and cannot be) a complete reference on the topic.

BCP: Business Continuity Planning is process in which organization identifies who and what of response to a disaster striking the business.

Business Impact Analysis(BIA): It is a systematic and structured process in which each business function is looked at and impact is assess, if disaster were to strike it. It is sort of risk analysis.

Crisis Management(CM): It is consists of set of activities and coordination of response to disaster or crisis.

RTO/RPO: RTO-recovery time objective, is the time within which IT systems/applications must be recovered after a disaster. While RPO-recovery point objective, is the point in time to which IT systems/applications must be recovered after a disaster.

BC/DR Site: It can be defined as an alternate work-area(office) site and also as a site where your IT workload and/or data is recovered.

Business continuity and disaster recovery is huge and serious endeavor any organization can take up to safe guard their interests. Every year we hear the losses incurred, and disruption experienced by businesses, customers, and people all over the world due to various events. It is important to educate all stakeholders, including employees about BC/DR. Many countries have laws in place for businesses to adhere to in this regard, as well as there are industry specific standards have been developed, which are required for compliance, for example BFSI industry, or health-care industry.

So, make most of this awareness week and look at your BC/DR needs, review your plans and if possible carry out mock tests for checking your preparedness.

Moved to AWS? What next?

This year’s AWS re:Invent, week long annual mecca of AWS cloud users, professionals concluded recently in Las Vegas. Based on the reports, it seems that this event is getting bigger and bigger every year. I heard there were more than 30K people this year! I cannot wait for similar event locally here in Pune to take place, which typically follows few months later. I have attended local events in the past and written about it here. The sheer speed at which newer and newer features are rolled out is amazing and mind boggling. This true with Google and Microsoft’s Azure as well. AWS even announced region(Mumbai) in India as well, which was long standing requirement considering the growth of startup culture in last few years in India. Yesterday, I noticed a Google Maps advertisement(#LookBeforeYouTravel) billboards on the streets of Pune, which was, obviously, encouraging commuters to use Google Maps to combat ever-growing, ever-chaotic traffic situation in Pune. This is the first time I have seen Google getting on the streets to advertise. Neither have I seen similar thing from AWS as yet. Of course, we see Amazon’s online store’s advertisements all over, all the time.

At AWS re:Invent, some of the announcements are understandably around ever growing IoT platform, and data analytical/artificial intelligence. I was particularly interested in hearing James Hamilton, AWS’ distinguished infrastructure engineer. I am following his blog for over an year now, since I came to know about it. I always wondered what is behind AWS infrastructure. You may find his blog here and also points he made during his talk here. The proliferation of public cloud platforms such as AWS has made enterprises rethink their IT strategy. And why not? Cost saving, one of the biggest drivers, at different levels is always a welcome thing. Many of them decide and eventually move to AWS, and that is where new challenges emerge. Even though most of enterprises adopt Hybrid IT/Hybrid Cloud strategy where they choose public cloud for workloads which would result into lower TCO. But ultimately these are enterprise workloads, many a times connected back to on-prem IT systems or even some other private cloud or hosted private cloud ecosystems. This results into certain challenges which enterprise customers do need help on. Recently, I wrote a blog on Sungard Availability Services'(Sungard AS) corporate blog website, about these and how we at Sungard AS are trying to address them. Hope you will find it useful.

Anyways, let me close this blog on a wacky(but a futuristic) note. Considering the sheer growth of AWS, Google, and Azure(AWS is doing more than USD 2 billion per quarter in revenue, others probably similar, but have not disclosed), I wonder if they will have presence in outer space too. How about a AWS data center on Moon or in outer space?

Update on Dec 31, 2016: I did not imagine that my wacky thought of Amazon having a data center in space would realize so soon. Today, I read about the fact that Amazon is planning to setup a fulfillment center in space with a spacecraft flying at at the height of 45,000 feet. This is not a data center, I understand. But I think it is certainly a very close to getting on now that they have a fulfillment center, which not only stores products, but also has drones and Unmanned Ariel vehicle(UAV) delivering ordered goods to customers. See more here.

Recovery

I have been associated with organization called Schizophrenia Awareness Association(SAA) since 2009 as supporter and volunteer. And I have written on this blog few times in the past(Introduction to SAA, REBT, SHSG). During my association, my understanding about mental health issues, and challenges got better. Recovery and rehabilitation of persons suffering from mental health issues is ultimate goal for anyone involved. SAA conducts sessions for both patients and care givers, covering various topics, focusing on recovery and rehab, along with various other stages of mental health.

Abraham Low, famous psychiatrist came with set of guidelines and methods to employ during recovery process for people with mental health issues. These days, I am reading Marathi translation of his biography written by Neil & Margaret Rau(I will write more about the book later on the blog). Here, I wanted to talk about recovery process. His proposition is around self-help and self-instruction. In 1931, he came up with simple and effective technique to be employed during recovery process. Encouraged by seeing results of this method, he and others were involved in founding organization called Recovery International.

Recovery Method focuses on Spotting, reframing defeatist language, self-endorsement and creating Examples. Some of the most common spotting tools, which we use, during SHSG meeting at SAA are described here. Spotting refers to consciously increasing self-awareness and identifying what is happening and preparing to cope up with it. Reframing language refers to avoid self-diagnosis and encourages seeking help of doctor, many times it is negative or not aligned with reality. Self-diagnosis is very common with persons affected with mental health. Self-endorsement is a technique related to dividing larger goal into smaller objectives, and reminding oneself to stick to those, no matter what the outcome would be. Creating Examples technique encourages person to recognize and record experiences and challenges faces, and failures and success of dealing with it. And more importantly, talking about it and sharing them in next SHSG meetings.

I would like to conclude this blog on a different note altogether. In my professional life, I am involved in information technology business. Enterprises these days have become more aware of disaster recovery(DR). At Sungard AS where I work, we have solutions and services built around DR. Fundamental tenets of recovery from disasters, is backing up/replicating IT environment and data. Disasters can happen anytime. And when they happen, these backups or replicated information is used to recover from the disaster. I cannot help myself wonder on possibility of similar avenue for humans. When brain encounters disasters, it should be possible to recover to previous good state. I know, I don’t want to get into eternal argument of man and machine comparison-we are far from nearing it despite the fact that so much of innovation is taking place around nano-technology and wearable devices. May be, intelligent machines, robots, who carry artificial intelligence, are recoverable in this manner, as they are ultimately machine in true sense. But recovery for human beings in this manner is a scary thought, to say the least.

Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences.

PS: Update on Oct 11, 2015: I finally finished the book My Dear Ones which is referred above. I have written about it here