Counting on business resilience in 2022

By Creative ITC MD Keith Ali

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a gamechanger for working models across the business world. But with many accountancy and financial services firms re-writing the rulebook on flexible working, many have found themselves facing unprecedented challenges to maintain operational resilience. Drawing on years of experience deploying technologies for some of the leading finance companies, Creative ITC MD Keith Ali advises how a new approach to disaster recovery (DR) is required to protect accountancy firms against the additional challenges of hybrid working.

Mind the DR gap

The business world rushed to implement remote working at the outbreak of Covid-19 to get employees online quickly and maintain operations. Formerly an alien concept in the accountancy sector where face to face interaction was considered the norm, now hybrid and flexible working seems set to stay, as firms recognise its benefits for employees and ensuring always-on customer experience.

PwC was among the first firms in the accounting, tax and audit sector to offer remote working for employees. Deloitte has embraced similar ultra-flexible working in the UK, with chief executive, Richard Houston stating, “We will let our people choose where they need to be to do their best work.”

However, hybrid working models are exacerbating the challenge for accountancy firms to ensure business resilience. With more employees working away from the office, over half of IT leaders (52%) now feel hard pressed to protect employees’ mobile devices from surging cybercrime. Others reported security back doors left open in seemingly innocent legacy network connections and end-user devices. 

It’s never been more important for business leaders to ensure that their organisations are robust and flexible enough to deal with a wide variety of threats. McKinsey reports that operational resilience has become a key strategic issue across the finance sector. Yet, the reality is that IT teams are battling a rising tide of security threats, outdated systems, lack of investment, increasing infrastructure complexity and growing reliance on public cloud offerings.

An effective disaster recovery strategy forms the backbone of successful business resilience but the pandemic has exposed cracks in many DR plans. Lack of regular testing and increasing IT complexity are largely to blame for 71% of CIOs lacking confidence in their ability to successfully recover from a DR incident. Disturbingly, almost half (46%) of finance companies haven’t tested their DR solutions for six months or more, while 87% are struggling to orchestrate alerts from multi-vendor security products. 

Traditional replication solutions weren’t designed to deal with current IT complexity, or to adapt to the scalability, mobility and flexibility demands of apps running on virtualised cloud infrastructures. With long term hybrid working, the demand for data availability and protection is greater than ever. Put simply, DR plans must evolve.

A new breed of DR solution

Escaping the burden of managing business continuity across an ever-growing cloud infrastructure, accountancy businesses are increasingly moving to Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS). A specialist provider offers a headache-free, fully managed service tailored to organisational needs. Premium protection and recovery speed can be applied only to the critical infrastructure and data services that actually need it, with a slower recovery SLA for elements where business impact would be less.

Finance firms often struggle to implement and test resilient DR plans because of the cost and resources involved. Without significant Capex investment or the expense of keeping a secondary DR site running, DRaaS replaces in a stroke the cost of hardware, software and people with predictable monthly expense and burst capacity. DR is the outsourced provider’s sole focus, rather than an additional task for hard-pressed in-house IT teams.

Golden rules for DR

To ensure the best possible performance of your DR solution to minimise the impact of downtime, focus on optimising two key metrics:

  • Recovery Point Objective The last point in time IT systems and applications can be recovered to, RPO indicates the amount of data that will be lost. Nightly backups (with an RPO of 24 hours) are likely to be insufficient in a world where the cost of one hour of lost data can easily hit six figures.
  • Recovery Time Objective RTO measures the time it takes to recover apps and data and for business operations to return to normal. Downtime can result in significant loss in revenue and productivity. 

Always aim for the lowest RPO possible and ensure your solution includes alerts to warn if you’re in danger of exceeding your defined SLA and enables the prioritisation of individual applications. 

Regular testing is essential to benchmark RTO and tweak your DR plan to minimise downtime. That’s where a DRaaS provider adds particular value. As it’s imperative to get users back online quickly and maintain uninterrupted customer service, some DRaaS providers will offer a temporary VDI solution. By deploying a best-of-breed DR technology enabling no downtime in production nor break in the replication, they can also perform tests during working hours with no impact on business operations. The provider will repeat this multiple times to optimise your RTO so, you’ll know you’ll always be able to fully recover, as quickly as possible.

Ensuring business resilience

The nature of disaster planning is changing. As cloud and virtualisation take hold, so too does the risk of downtime due to software problems, cybersecurity vulnerabilities and increasing infrastructure complexity. The additional threat of power outages, natural disasters and human error make it clear that accountancy firms need more robust DR resources in place – and be absolutely certain they will work.

A DRaaS solution based on hypervisor-based replication and CDP provides a far higher, comprehensive level of protection and readiness than the traditional DR approaches still in place in many organisations. A scalable, fully managed DRaaS solution from a specialist provider assures business resilience for accountancy firms, with the added benefit of time and cost savings, improved DR performance and peace of mind.

By Creative ITC MD Keith Ali

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