The SME Disaster Recovery Time Bomb

There is a critical need for effective disaster recovery (DR) solutions from SME users of Microsoft Windows Small Business Server (SBS). This is because SBS provides consolidated server applications in one affordable package, but having everything on one computer means that if SBS goes down, all business services are lost together.

What happens if disaster strikes and the SBS is permanently damaged, stolen or no longer available? Remember, no-longer available could be anything from a proper biblical style fire, flood, a significant hardware or software failure, malicious damage by a disgruntled employee, a simple mistake by an IT support engineer, a server being stolen, a virus or hacker attack.

Whatever the cause of SBS loss and no matter how short the outage period, the impact on a business can involve serious financial losses or worse. Experiencing a loss of key IT systems can be even more devastating in the current climate when companies need to be as competitive as possible. Given this, why do so many small companies fail to prepare properly for IT disasters?

The recovery challenge

Rebuilding a SBS is very difficult because it has a number of key applications that might otherwise be found on separate servers, so the rebuild process is often longer and more complicated. Another SBS re-build challenge is its inclusion of only one copy of Active Directory that controls user access, security controls and other key functions. Without Active Directory, nothing will work and if anything goes wrong with its restore – it is very difficult to diagnose.

Companies that rely on SBS typically possess limited or no in-house IT support, which means that it is harder to carry out system maintenance and repetitive, low level tasks like server backups are also often at risk. If backups are run consistently they are almost never tested and as mentioned previously backups are notorious for failing without indication.

Yet backups are almost always the only recovery route businesses have in the event of a loss of the server. Worryingly, in a server loss scenario, Microsoft’s remedy is to recover from backups. Unfortunately, on average about 20% of backups fail and the backup will only be useful once a SBS has been replaced or rebuilt, which due to its complexity, can take up to 10 days.

Limited IT support also means that small companies have less scope to handle an IT disaster internally. SBS Users need to factor in who will do this work and are they available and how long could their business do without all its computer systems before customers go elsewhere and the business suffers irreparable damage?

There is increasing pressure from customers and partners for DR as part of a professional business continuity solution. This is combined with the increasing capability of DR solutions, at much lower prices, being brought to market by businesses exploiting the benefits of virtualistion.

There is a number of cost effective, DR Services for businesses that typically run SBS. Look for fully managed services that can demonstrate confidently that they will quickly restore the server, so the business can get back in control. The best DR services should also be simple to employ, possess bullet proof SLAs, offer a free trial period and must demonstrate a successful track record.

Tim Dunger is Plan B's DR Operations Director. He has responsibility for Plan B’s day to day operation and direction. He is passionate about customer service and has a mission to ensure that our clients receive the high level of service and support that they deserve from everyone within the organisation. Prior to Plan B, Tim was Intercea's managing director.