The Short Answer Is: Yes, You Do!

Disaster Recovery Plan_VOX ISM

Here’s Why You Need A Disaster Recovery Plan:

Disaster Recovery Planning is not just about backing up and restoring your database – Microsoft has you covered there – It is about preparedness, so you aren’t caught flat-footed if some catastrophe happens. A delay of even one day to get people up and running is costly. If it takes longer, the costs escalate rather quickly in lost productivity or sales.

Disasters can happen in a number of ways:

  1. Loss of Internet connection
  2. PC\Device connectivity issues
  3. Ransomware or other Virus attacks on your PCs\Devices
  4. Physical damage to your devices (fire, flood, etc.)
  5. Machine related issues (e.g. your CNC goes down, etc.)

What can you do?

Have a Documented strategy for what to do in case of a Disaster and keep this in a well-labelled binder in a location where people know where to find it (not hidden in someone’s desk). You should also have an electronic copy kept wherever you have a Company shared document folder.

Identify what to do and who to contact in the case of the various “disaster scenarios” and provide estimates where possible as to expected response times (e.g. “…it takes about x hours to get a new server in”)

  • Loss of Internet connection – who is your internet provider? Are there specific steps the average user can take to troubleshoot first?
  • PC\Device connectivity issues – is this your in-house IT support or 3rd-party IT? Are there specific steps the average user can take to troubleshoot first?
  • Ransomware or other Virus attacks on your PCs\Devices – who should you contact?: internal or 3rd-party IT, key company officials, ERP support providers, etc.)
  • Physical damage to your devices (fire, flood, etc.) – who provides your hardware?
  • Machine related issues (e.g. your CNC goes down, etc.) – who services the manufacturing hardware?

Identify interim, short-term and long-term workarounds until you are “back up.” This is extremely important for owners to know their options

  • How do you continue to take and record orders, ship, etc. if your systems are unavailable for longer than a couple of hours?
  • What is your process for re-entering the recorded data (who does it; who is responsible for managing it)?
  • Are there other dependencies involved (do you have to provide electronic versions of things to customers\vendors, and how do you do this if your systems are down)?

The Disaster Recovery Plan steps should be reviewed, tested and modified as new processes\people\software become available. This is more of a “living document” and not just something that you did once 5 years ago. Technology and systems change, as well as staff, and you must make sure your information is kept up-to-date.

Some suggestions for, say, troubleshooting Internet connectivity are as follows:

  1. Identify whether the internet connection is still working. Test accessing other websites.
  2. If the Internet is not working, spend no more than one-half hour troubleshooting the problem with your provider and IT staff (provide contact information here). 
  3. Your IT support should have a process in place to set up cellphone hotspots (or the equivalent) to get your key users working again. Certain users may have paper forms ready to go in an emergency, which can then be input into the system when it comes back up. Have a plan ready, train your users, and document the emergency procedures to follow.
  4. If the Internet is working and access to Microsoft seems to be lost, contact your Business Central partner as quickly as possible to make sure they are working on the problem. Outages are rare and generally short in duration, but they could, in theory, occur.

So what DOES Microsoft SaaS do to help mitigate disasters?

The urgency of response is significantly less when you use Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central in a Software as a Service (SaaS) configuration. This is compared to having an in-house server running in with on-premise installation. Having your Accounting\ERP system running in the cloud removes or reduces the number of risks, though it won’t solve all your problems in the event of a catastrophe, as previously discussed.

Microsoft’s dedicated SQL Azure servers have a guaranteed uptime of 99.9%.

Microsoft is continually scanning the environment for problems and fixing them proactively. With on-premise systems, you generally find out about problems after they happen, and your system is down. Even if you do identify a problem early, it may still result in significant downtime if it is hardware related.

Each Business Central database has four live copies: the first three are in the customer’s primary data center, and the last one is in a geo-redundant location.

If the primary database copy goes down, the system automatically flips over to the secondary copy, and a new live copy is spun up. If the entire primary data center goes down or contact is lost, the customer is connected to the fourth copy in the second center.

Microsoft identifies vulnerabilities quickly, develops patches, and applies them generally before viruses exploit them to become wide-spread.

When Microsoft has identified a vulnerability, they develop a patch and apply it to their servers immediately. On-premise servers will not be updated as quickly, and so they are at higher risk of becoming a victim of a virus. 

The latest versions of Business Central (v. 15+) now allows copies of databases to be downloaded.

This means customers can now keep database backup copies locally and in another web location in case they want to have greater control over their database backups. This process needs to be scheduled or done manually, but it does offer some additional assurance beyond already having four live copies of your database in two different locations.

We hope this helps answer some questions you may have about Disaster Recovery Planning and the benefits of Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 SaaS. Please feel free to contact VOX ISM if you have any questions.

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Blog post by Trevor Reid: Senior Technology consultant

With over 25 years of experience in the Software and IT Industries (and 20 years with VOX ISM), Trevor has been involved in hundreds of software implementations and upgrades. Currently, he is VOX ISM’s “go-to” resource for anything technical having to do with SQL Server, SharePoint, Mobility/IFD, Remote Access, Database migrations and other areas of IT infrastructure and administration. Trevor works closely with our customers and their IT personnel and is always eager to share his wealth of knowledge.

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