Business Continuity for Engineering Firms: Why Your Firm Should Care About More Than Data Backup
Data continuity, disaster recovery, and business continuity are related, but not the same. Designing business continuity for engineering firms can be difficult if the firm has an incomplete understanding of the differences between data continuity, disaster recovery, and business continuity.
Does your firm back up its critical files?
Where is your firm’s business-critical data stored?
How will your employees access the information they need to do their jobs in the event of a disaster?
Engineering firms are often unsure about the value of business continuity and may dismiss the solution as an “extra” expense.
An engineering firm’s business continuity plan is pertinent to its longevity because of the mass amount of data that’s accessed and transferred by the firm’s employees.
While it’s necessary to have the right technology in place, technical concerns are not the only consideration that needs to be made when creating a business continuity plan.
Data continuity vs. disaster recovery vs. business continuity
To make it simple, you must have a data continuity solution to create a disaster recovery plan, which you use to develop a business continuity plan.
The following paragraphs will describe what each solution includes and how the three terms are different, but overlap.
- Focuses on the technical aspects of your company’s data storage and recovery process
- Includes implementing data backups
- Is necessary to create a disaster recovery plan
- Focuses on technology and operational aspects of your firm’s data recovery process
- Requires a data continuity solution
- Is necessary to create a business continuity plan
- Determines what data to restore and technology to use
- Focuses on how your firm’s business processes will leverage the technology you choose
- Requires both a data recovery and disaster recovery solution
- Is necessary to restore both data and operations after a disaster
- Determines who in the organization is responsible for what in the event of a disaster
Overall, data continuity only provides the technical measures necessary to develop a disaster recovery and business continuity plan. It is the foundation required for moving to the next level.
For example, when considering Disaster Recovery, your firm can purchase a data backup solution and a Backup Disaster and Recovery (BDR) device, but how is the data stored? More importantly, how much downtime can your firm endure, and who oversees initiating the recovery process when a disaster occurs?
These are a few of questions that must be asked when creating a disaster recovery plan, and the process requires someone with proper knowledge of your company’s technology, operations, and limitations to create a comprehensive solution specific to your firm.
The importance of business continuity for engineering firms
The business continuity plan is the master plan that integrates not only the technical aspects (data continuity) and the evaluation of the absolutely necessary data (disaster recovery), but it sets out roles and responsibilities should your firm experience a data loss situation.
Engineering firms are special because they use a lot of data. Thus, an engineering firm’s business continuity plan can require a more complex design than those companies without the same data load.
As mentioned previously, a business continuity plan requires more than just data backups. A strategy focused around your business must be built within the solution for it to be effective.
We see many engineering firms make the mistake of failing to organize their files strategically, with both security and operations in mind. Everyone within the firm has access to its critical files and everything is stored under one file share on one server.
“We use the same technology across almost every vertical when designing a business continuity solution. It’s not only the technology you choose, but how you implement it. The challenge lies in building an environment your firm can effectively maintain.” (Curtis Forsyth, Senior Project Engineer)
We recently had a client whose network was attacked by CryptoLocker. They came to us for help, but because of the way the client’s files were backed up, it took over a week for their information to be fully restored.
Aldridge provided the firm immediate, virtual access to its business-critical data throughout the process. Employees could work, but this was not an ideal solution.
Our main challenge was to effectively restore the data to the right place, in the right way, without impacting the end-user’s productivity.
When the server is still in the process of being recovered, there are tasks such as file sync and cut overs that can be affected by faulty management of the technology and recovery process.
Your firm’s IT team should have the technical and business expertise to both design and manage a business continuity plan that suits the unique needs of your organization. The goal is to minimize downtime and maximize availability in the event of a disaster.
How to design business continuity for engineering firms
Business continuity involves strategic planning and cooperation from your firm’s executives and IT team to establish a strategic file management system that is organized with both security and functionality in mind. Our technology experts suggest the best way to prepare your firm for creating a business continuity plan is to begin from the ground up.
Your upper management team is a critical part of creating a business continuity solution because no one knows the business better than those who run it. However, it requires both IT expertise and business knowledge to marry technology to a firm’s operational needs. Your IT team, or IT outsourcing provider, should work hand in hand with your executives to design, implement, and test your business continuity plan as it advises your firm throughout this process.
While engineering firms are limited in the ways they share documents, such as drawings and PDFs, there are many document management and software tools that can serve engineering firms. Such programs can easily integrate with AutoCAD, Inventor, and CadWorks, and are generally more easily backed up because they’re stored on a cloud database.
However, your firm must be wary of making file changes without considering the repercussions. In short, be sure to consult with your IT advisor to determine the best way for your firm to implement a business continuity plan.
If you’re lacking a complete business continuity solution, or are unsure about your firm’s ability to survive a data disaster, contact an Aldridge representative to learn how to bolster your company’s tolerance for the unexpected.