Sat | Nov 18, 2017

Donovan White | Rethinking disaster recovery

Published:Sunday | November 12, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Donovan White is the VP of C&W Business Jamaica.

November 30 marks the end of the Atlantic hurricane season. The Caribbean, Central America and parts of the United States will collectively breathe a sigh of relief having been through a very active season, which experts say had the highest number of consecutive hurricanes since the satellite era began in the mid-1960s. November also marks the national observance of Science and Technology Month, which is geared at educating the public on the importance and relevance of science and technology to the development of society.

For many of us, the most notable thing about this Atlantic hurricane season was the extensive loss of life and property - a reality that brings to mind the issue of disaster recovery. However, this year's observance of Science and Technology Month on the heels of hurricanes Maria and Irma presents a unique opportunity to discuss the link between disaster recovery as a physical action, as well as a technological one.

 

PHYSICAL DISASTER RECOVERY

 

Physical disaster recovery focuses on rebuilding social structures such as communities, families and people's way of life through the restoration of essential services and infrastructure. The Caribbean is no stranger to natural disasters or physical disaster recovery efforts, having survived earthquakes, volcanoes, flooding and hurricanes. Taken in context, it means that preparation for disasters is a critical consideration for all parts of society.

Today, unlike previous times in history, technology recovery efforts have become an essential part of the overall disaster recovery process due to its pervasiveness. Think: Access to data and the critical services that it powers such as ATMs, traffic lights and the ability to simply send an email - none of this is possible without technology systems. For governments or businesses, the impact of a disaster goes beyond the physical and social structures.

An information technology disaster recovery plan (IT DRP) involves a set of policies and procedures to enable the continuation or recovery of vital technology infrastructure and systems following a natural or human-induced disaster.

Information technology (IT) systems require hardware, software, data and connectivity to function. A fault or missing component can degrade the services provided by the IT system. This also means that a plan for data backup and restoration of electronic information is essential. The loss of productivity because of natural disasters alone is great, but the average cost to GDP is estimated at 2.5 per cent. Therefore, recovery strategies should be developed for IT systems and their constituent components.

Jamaica is home to several entities that operate regionally, possessing holdings or conducting businesses in countries that have been affected by the recent hurricanes. During and in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria, these businesses needed rapid or immediate recovery of information technology assets. Further, information was required to accurately assess the impact on their offshore holdings and the steps required to ensure business continuity - a situation significantly bolstered by technology disaster recovery efforts.

Often overlooked are the imminent human-induced disasters like cyberthreats.

Cyberthreats are the tactics, techniques and procedures used to gain access to computer or network systems with the malicious intent to steal, corrupt or disrupt. The 2017 Annual Cybercrime Report states that cybercrime will cost the world US$6 trillion annually by 2021, up from US$3 trillion in 2015. Closer to home, senior adviser in the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, Trevor Forrest, stated that last year, Jamaica lost US$100 million to cybercrime.

 

TECHNOLOGY DISASTER RECOVERY

 

Across Jamaica, companies have been the victims of data breaches, failed systems or malicious corruption illustrating that cybercrimes can happen at any time to any entity, regardless of size. Technology disaster recovery plans are, therefore, essential to ensure the backup of information and facilitates critical systems remaining online.

Governments and businesses must consider the potential loss to business because of unforeseen disasters, whether natural or human-induced. Understand that today, we individually use email and IP-based telephony to communicate and make decisions in large and small businesses. Many of our essential services rely on Internet connections while an extensive amount of business transactions are processed by servers, which transmit and store large quantities of data, including orders and payments from one company to another. IT disaster recovery, though an important companion to physical disaster recovery efforts, is something that Government and private-sector organisations must keep at the forefront of their minds - both in and out of the Atlantic hurricane season.

- Donovan White is the VP of C&W Business Jamaica. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.