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The Best Offense to Protect Utility Services in Disaster is a DRaaS Defense

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Implementing a disaster recovery plan and preparing for unexpected disruptions is becoming imperative for utilities in the event of natural disasters, cyber attacks, human errors and other issues or security threats that could result in a critical outage of power, water, gas and other resources. According to a recent Information Security survey by PwC, only about half of utilities have an IT disaster response plan because of concerns about price, time or changes to operations. The reality is, a true event can end up being far more disruptive. Gartner estimates the average cost of downtime caused by an IT failure is $5,600 per minute or $300,000 per hour, on average. This doesn’t even account for lost customers, delayed services or damage to a company’s brand. In today’s digital, fully-connected community, utility companies can’t risk not having an alternate solution to get back online in the event of an outage.

Traditional disaster recovery approaches stem from the loss of a primary site and a secondary site that must come back online within the established Recovery Time Object (RTO). Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) solutions, such as cloud-based resources and total system backups, can mitigate damage of unexpected disruptions or downtime. DRaaS can restore operations within hours, offering fully-functional copies of software and data for fail over. In addition, DRaaS through a managed service provider can allow services to resume in a secure secondary location, limiting the impact to customers and employees, while also eliminating administrative and hardware costs associated with utilities housing their own backup options on-site. The flexibility of DRaaS data recovery can be pinpointed to specific applications, databases, or even time periods so work can continue as usual.

At FNTS, we assist utilities in combating fail over risks with regular infrastructure assessments and selecting, customizing and testing backup and redundancy plans. Once a disaster recovery plan is in place, it is important to review periodically to ensure it is still in line with digital demands. At FNTS, replication services are tested until they’re 100 percent successful. Annual disaster recovery tests also are performed with each client utilizing disaster recovery solutions to initiate and examine DRaaS processes and determine if changes or updates are needed.

A Solution to Avoid Investing in Aging Infrastructure
Because disaster recovery equipment is on standby, the supporting hardware will often reach retirement age before it is used, making it a hard investment to make. On occasion, companies will use lower-end or retired hardware in disaster recovery plans and then find out that the new versions of software are not supported or patching isn’t up to date. There also could be issues with backups not working or not being actively monitored to be fully-functional when needed to serve as a fail over point. A growing number of utility companies are shifting to high-availability options through managed service providers due to fail over functionality, which allows them to remain operational during an outage.

Regardless of lost data or entire infrastructures, being offline for any period of time means a loss to revenue, and when customers are impacted, it creates the possibility for insurmountable damage. No matter the size of the utility company, unforeseen events are going to occur. Fortunately, the stress, complexity, and costliness of a traditional disaster recovery plan is made simpler and more cost-effective with DRaaS. DRaaS ensures utility companies have peace of mind knowing that when disaster strikes, mission critical applications are secure and the focus can be on assisting customers with ensured and continuous access to crucial resources, without the investment into costly software with expiration dates. Depending on the size of an organization, a digital migration to a managed service provider with DRaaS offerings can take as little as two weeks or up to three to six months.