Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery

What Should My Chicagoland Accounting Firm Know About Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery?

As a leader of a Chicagoland accounting firm or tax preparation office, there are a few things that you have to do well. You have to run an organized office, you have to communicate well with clients, and you have to make sure that your firm is ready for whatever happens. That’s where Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery services come into play.

Why consider a robust Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery strategy?

Because you don’t have a crystal ball, and you can’t see the future.

That’s the problem.

You have to be prepared for everything…

  • Fire
  • Flood
  • Hacks
  • Ransomware
  • Electrical Surges/Outages
  • Storms
  • Human Error
  • Internal Sabotage
  • Criminal Vandalism

What is Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Strategy?

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BCDR) strategy is the forecasting of potential circumstances that might have a negative impact on your ability to use your computers, applications, data, and servers at your facility. Once potential natural and manmade disasters have been identified, protective protocols are put in place to enable you to use your IT assets in the cloud, even if you cannot access them at your facility.

The Five Main Elements of a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery plan are:

Impact Analysis – Identifying how much your business would suffer if IT assets are affected by a natural or manmade disaster
Backup of Server and Data – Ensuring that all data and workflow is automatically backed up offsite and is easily recoverable
Network Assessment –Determining whether your network is capable of handling the traffic from your local server to the cloud server
Cybersecurity Protocols – Protecting your on-site and cloud-based workflow and data with cybersecurity tools such as business-class antivirus, firewalls, and encryption
Accessibility and Automation – Making the written Business Continuity plan accessible to key employees who will need it in the case of a disaster and automating as much of the Business Continuity strategy as possible.

What are the Most Common Errors that Accounting Firms Make with Their Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery?

Inadequate Survey of IT Environment

The first step of a strong BCDR strategy is a thorough assessment of the entire workflow and IT assets within an accounting firm. This step should be done by an IT consulting firm such as Alavanca Systems. Without this comprehensive assessment, critical data or elements of workflow can be missed.

Neglect to Update

Network changes, new hardware, new applications, and new databases are incorporated into an accounting firm’s IT environment over the years. In order for a firm’s BCDR solution to work effectively, those new assets must be taken into consideration as the BCDR strategy is updated from year to year.

Omission of Testing

A BCDR strategy, even one with automated IT backup functions, is not entirely functional without employee training, BCDR drills, and regular testing of the underlying systems. Following an annual update of the BCDR strategy, employees should receive training, and a practice BCDR drill should be performed in conjunction with mock fire/flood/storm scenarios to ensure that each person knows their responsibilities in a disaster scenario.

Lack of Appointed Responsibility

A BCDR strategy cannot simply be formulated and then stuck in the CEO’s desk. The accounting firm should appoint a C-suite executive to be in charge of ensuring that employees are instructed annually in BCDR protocols, that the BCDR plan is updated annually, and that the BCDR drills take place.

Failure to Plan for Secondary Working Location

If your current facility is rendered unusable by fire, flood, storm, or criminal act, it’s imperative that you have a fallback location for your operations. Whether that is a rented conference room at a hotel in the next town over or another office suite, you and your staff have to have a location in place as part of your BCDR strategy.

What is Included in the Alavanca Systems Managed IT Services Offering?

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On-Site and Cloud-Based Recovery Methods

Although, in many cases, it will be necessary to fall back to your cloud-based backups, on-site backup hardware usually provides a quicker data recovery time (if your local hardware is salvageable).
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Geo-Redundant Backups

Geo-redundancy is especially important for companies that operate in areas that are more susceptible to storm, flood, and earthquake activity. By deduplicating workflow and data in several geographic areas, you secure that data against any damage that may occur to your local data center.
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Regular, Automated, Verified Backups

Backup timing cannot be left to chance or to an individual’s memory. Depending on your workload, backups should take place weekly, daily, hourly, or every 15 minutes. This must be an automated process to avoid human error.
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VoIP Business Telephone System

Having internet-based telephone systems in place allows your firm to move seamlessly from your current facility to another facility if needed, without a change in professional telephone experience for your clients.
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Image-Based Backups

Image-based backups differ from file-based backups in that they take a “picture” of the entire computing system and back that “image” up to the storage solution. This is preferable because it gives you the ability to revert to the computing environment you had rather than just the files you have backed up.
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Cybersecurity Management

Stopping malicious individuals from doing damage to your IT systems and stealing confidential data is the very basis of your BCDR plan. By building concentric walls of IT security best practices, you can often prevent many attacks such as phishing, ransomware, and hacking from becoming a problem in the first place.
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Data Encryption

Data encryption ensures that even if the bad guys do get their hands on your firm’s client data, they won’t be able to do anything with it.
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Virtualization of On-Site Servers and Computers

In a BCDR scenario, virtualization is the process of using cloud-based servers to run the operating system and applications for your firm. Instead of having an on-site server and network-connected computers, your server and computers are “virtual” and are housed on a server in a secure, compliant data center. Your computers, operating system, personal settings, applications, and data are accessed through VPN technology via any internet-connected device.

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Ciro
Ciro

Ciro Cetrangolo is an IT specialist with over 30+ years in the IT services industry. Ciro has a deep understanding of the software, workflow, and underlying technology of accounting organizations and helps firms like yours achieve the secure, stable, and streamlined IT environments you need to accomplish your work more effectively. See my Amazon Author Profile

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