With strong storms, head to cloud

WITH harsh weather patterns becoming normal occurrences and calamities becoming more frequent, more businesses are seeing the need to include business continuity in their planning on top of the necessary insurance coverage. Not having one is no longer an option.

“As natural calamities become more frequent, companies big or small should activate their respective emergency or disaster management systems. Everybody should do this proactively,” said Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Jeruel Roa.

Cebu Business Club president Gordon Alan Joseph believes all businesses should have thorough business continuity programs in place, taking into account duplication of data and files in secure locations, redundant equipment to restart the business, back-up power sources, alternative office locations and resource plans to make sure workers are available and can be contacted to keep the business running.

Resume operations

“It is far better to be pro-active and prepared to ensure that your business resumes operations as early as possible following a disaster – and not work to just salvage your business,” Joseph said.

For Roa, making the right decisions are key. With storms, he said managers and supervisors can gather enough information from government agencies and prepare a skeletal to operate a plant or decide to make delivers to strategic areas ahead of schedule before storms make landfall.

“Paramount in any emergency situation, of course, is the safety of people and of property. If safety is already compromised in a certain situation, then temporary closure or shutdown may be the prudent action.”

Large technology companies in the country are offering an array of solutions to ensure businesses can continue even during times of calamity. Most of these solutions involve moving to the cloud.

“Going into the cloud is a very effective means to ensure business continuity and for bigger companies, they can outsource their data servers to providers that specialize on this kind of services. SMEs need to be able to prepare and back up their operations in case calamities strike or should unforeseen events damage their physical infrastructures,” said Amil Azurin, assistant vice president and head of – SME marketing of PLDT SME Nation.

He explained that cloud services are easily accessible and can be efficient. “Much like how Gmail works – our files and data are easily accessed through any form of device provided we input certain codes for security measure like our passwords.

Backing up our files through cloud is a very effective means for any business to recover important especially after a disaster.”

“Speed, flexibility, scalability and security are just a few benefits resulting from moving to the cloud. Whether these companies are start ups, or already have the existing infrastructure and resources to build and modify its ICT platform, cloud solutions allow these businesses to experience better cost structures, an increase in productivity, and a reduction in costs,” said Globe vice president for IT-enabled services Rey Lugtu.

He said that with cloud servers, businesses can be protected from calamities like floods and earthquakes because data would be in the cloud, in a virtual environment and not physically stored in servers housed in their offices. This means that even if their office is affected, they can switch on their back up on the cloud as if nothing happened and there is no downtime.

Providers like PLDT and Globe Telecom have noted an increase in interest for such solutions, even among small and medium enterprises. They make compelling arguments for businesses to take business continuity more seriously.

“The traditional setup for businesses is to have their servers on-premise where they can see, touch and control their hardware. For a majority of these businesses, disaster recovery means having spare equipment or vendor agreements in place to replace damaged equipment. Should a disaster strike, there is a chance that the spare equipment might also get damaged, or that the delivery of new equipment takes time – typically, 45 to 90 days to process orders, purchase request, importation, etc.

If these businesses run critical apps on these servers, any downtime will mean losses amounting to hundreds of thousands of pesos. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, downtime means that they are incapable of serving their customers. This will result in loss of reputation, and ultimately, loss of customer loyalty,” said Lugtu.

Stored elsewhere

Azurin added that backing up files on cloud-based servers enable businesses to rebuild their business because their data are stored some place else. They just need to rebuild their business with the necessary hardware.

PLDT has been offering data servers as a service, offering to SMEs where data and other cloud-based processes can be stored in data centers in secured facilities in the country. Azurin said they have Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), where business owners can “rent” data center capacities for their operations. It is scalable as to how small or how big the amount of capacity is needed.

Similarly, Globe’s enterprise and ICT arm Globe Business has been advocating for disaster prevention and preparedness initiatives for companies.

Lugtu said that once clients realize that moving to the cloud is not a complicated step, they embrace the benefits and sign up for services best suited to their needs.

For Azurin, they noticed in increased interest for disaster recovery solutions. They are also providing financial institutions like rural banks and cooperatives with colocation services and cloud infrastructure.

While there are many advantages offered by cloud services, there is more to ensuring continuity.

“Cloud servers are an excellent way to back up data. The only problem with cloud servers is that you need power and Internet connections to retrieve data – and in a disaster, one or the other or both may not be available. This is why I recommend having back-up external hard drives as well as cloud servers – and backup power,” Joseph said.

Aside from cloud solutions, Azurin said satellite phones are also useful to have, especially for local government units. “This will ensure that the LGUs will continue to have access and can continue to communicate with their operations team, before, during and more so after the event during the rehabilitation operations.”
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