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Disaster recovery must be at heart of business

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Unless businesses ensure they also take people and processes into account when planning for disasters, they run the risk of not surviving them, writes SAKKIE BURGER, Managing Executive at Business Connexion.

Most companies prioritise the need for restoring IT in the event of a system breakdown. What they do not focus on, however, is what processes are in place to ensure the business can continue when automated or digital processes fail and specifically the role that employees have to play as they are ultimately the custodians of the processes that drive operations. It’s easy to, for example, provide a company with 10 seats to go and restore their IT systems and get them up and running again, but how do you accommodate a company with 100 employees that have just lost their premises in a disaster? This poses a different challenge and there are not many companies, providing disaster recovery in South Africa, that have the luxury of having that amount of space available waiting just to be occupied when there is a need for disaster recovery.

Although most companies are going the route of digitisation, manual processes still have a fundamental role to play. Take an airline, for example. If their electronic system for checking passengers onto the plane goes down, they have to have a manual back office process in place to perform this function. They cannot just ground the aircraft until the electronic system is restored. And herein lies the challenge: not many companies have these contingencies in place and they are putting themselves, their businesses and most important, their customers at risk.

While many organisations have these failover processes in place, they either do not test them regularly enough or their testing practices are inadequate. Many organisations have testing in place, but they perform a paper-based test. They see that there’s a manual process in place, the configuration is there and that it is documented, but that is where it ends. There is no actual testing from end-to-end by recovering on a piece of hardware and making sure it works, that the network is connected and that users can actually sign in and check the data. People tend to do disaster recovery tests to satisfy their auditors rather than making sure the business can continue to run in the event of a disaster.

There are a number of challenges in adopting an adequate disaster recovery strategy. The biggest challenge is the cost. You know you have to have it, but also that you might never need it. The second challenge is distance. What distance is the correct distance for you to have a disaster recovery site, particularly when you take incidents that could affect a broader geographical area into account? Here connectivity also comes into play, because the further away your disaster recovery is from your main site, the more expensive network constituencies become.

Possibly one of the biggest risks companies face is that, while they have disaster recovery processes in place, they tend to set it up on equipment that has become redundant or obsolete. In these cases companies have had to upgrade their equipment, so they use the new technology for their production line and then run their disaster recovery on the old machines. The challenge with this is that when they do need to do a recovery, they find that it’s not compatible or supported anymore, which means they are not capable of recovering core systems in reasonable timeframes.

DR often does not get the attention it deserves because it is an expenditure that is not really productive. That is why there is a trend to outsource their disaster recovery to a third party, where there is an agreement that they have to have the necessary equipment in place to ensure they can run your disaster recovery effectively and efficiently.

Companies that are either re-looking their disaster recovery strategy or implementing it for the first time, need to ensure that they understand which of their applications are the most critical as a first step. Some applications don’t need disaster recovery contingency and you can run your business without them. Interestingly though, between 5 and 7 years ago mail wasn’t deemed a high priority application. Today, that is deemed the first thing companies want to have recovered, because it has become mission critical to the running of their businesses.

Times have certainly changed

Companies must also understand the technology that is involved. You can’t just move a workload from a Unix platform to a Microsoft platform. You must ensure that the work breakdown structures and standard operating procedures and processes are documented, tested and updated at least twice a year. It’s easy to just write a process and file it away in a cupboard and do nothing further with it. It needs to be tested vigorously and on a regular basis. It’s not just about testing it, it’s about change management and fixing problem as and when you are presented with them.

Often change management is the biggest problem in disasters. A disaster happens because something changed and a change request didn’t notify the disaster recovery process of this change. If your disaster recovery manual is not up to date, it could significantly increase the amount of time spent to fix the problem.

Featured

Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com

This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.

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Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.

What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.

However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.

As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.

It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.

The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.

To enter the competition follow the steps below:

Competition entry details:

1. Follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter. (We will ONLY be accepting entires via Twitter, so please don’t enter through the comments section of this article.)

2. Tell us on Twitter, via @GadgetZA, mentioning @Takealot in your posting, how many Watts the Poster Heater consumes.

cleardot.gif3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.

4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.

5. The competition is only open to South African residents.

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Arts and Entertainment

Deezer to host Hotstix’s Mandela tribute playlist

Deezer is celebrating Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birthday by hosting a tribute playlist created by music legend Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse.  

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Mabuse, a legendary figure in African music, first rose to prominence in the 1970s with his band Harari and later developed a name for himself as a solo artist. One of his best known songs was the global hit BurnOut in the 1980s.

The playlist takes the listener on a captivating musical journey through the life of Nelson Mandela.  It was compiled by Mabuse, who consulted with Mandela’s family and friends to ensure that the music would be relevant and accurate. The playlist also features commentary by Mabuse, which was recorded in his Soweto home.  

“I have tried to tell the story of the music that Madiba loved,” says Mabuse. “The Playlist excludes the time in prison obviously, as Madiba would not have had exposure to music in that time.  We have focused on the music we know he loved before and after that period. This recording was really an emotional journey for me, but an incredible opportunity to document these memories.”

The playlist features the music the young Mandela loved, such as The Manhattan Brothers, Solomon Linda, Brenda Fassie and Miriam Makeba.  It includes struggle songs from Chicco, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.  The playlist also includes Mandela by Zahara, one of the younger artists who caught Madiba’s ear.

Mabuse also offers stories of his own songs, such as Shikisha, a song greatly beloved by the former President.

“I was delighted to share my thoughts and hope the listeners enjoyed the musical journey,” says Mabuse. “Madiba did enjoy music immensely and we all have a purpose wherever we are in the world to celebrate culture and to learn from different cultures and music forms and styles.”

This playlist was inspired by the Nelson Mandela 100 campaign, calling on corporates and individuals to act as sources of inspiration and engage in conversation and action.

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