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Federal agencies need to improve disaster recovery programs

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Federal agencies lack confidence in their disaster recovery projects.

Similar to businesses in the private sector, federal agencies in the public sector need to establish a strategy that ensures mission-critical assets like the office phone system and crucial data are accessible in the immediate wake of a natural or man-made disaster. Unfortunately, many public sector administrators do not place as much of an emphasis on restoration projects that will enable their firms to survive problems that may be out of their hands.

Federal agencies are just as reliant on information and data as their private sector counterparts, though many decision-makers do not accentuate the importance of having crucial resources available in the wake of an emergency. This was highlighted in a recent study by MeriTalk, which found that there is a general lack of confidence in whether employees would be able to restore operations after a natural or man-made disaster.

The survey revealed that 70 percent of respondents would give their disaster recovery projects a grade of either an "A" or "B," though only 8 percent were completely confident that their strategies would allow them to recover 100 percent of their mission-critical resources. This can be a significant problem, as federal employees need the ability to collaborate with partners, customers and colleagues through an IP phone system or other platform.

Challenges persist amidst transforming IT landscape

As the telecommunications and other IT markets evolve, federal decision-makers need to improve their current offerings to make way for incoming volumes of data that will continue to grow in the coming years. In fact, the survey revealed that the the amount of information public agencies will need back by 2015 will be 39 percent higher than today. The study found that 25 percent of respondents believe their current disaster recovery plans will get them through the next 12 months, though a similar percentage believe it won't get them any further.

 

"Data is a critical asset and federal IT professionals are sounding the alarm on [data resilience and disaster recovery] preparedness. To increase confidence in their systems, agencies should test their [data resilience and disaster recovery] solutions often and thoroughly. Testing will expose vulnerabilities and help IT professionals secure support from mission owners for updates or improvements. Waiting until disaster strikes to test your system is too late," said Jean-Paul Bergeaux, chief technology officer at SwishData, which underwrote the survey.

Federal agencies generally fail to test their disaster recovery initiatives thoroughly enough, as most firms evaluated their strategies only 2.5 times within the past 12 months, according to MeriTalk. Conversely, the majority of respondents said they would recommend that their agency test their endeavors more than five times a year, suggesting that many decision-makers are not even living up to their own suggestions.

Mobility and cloud changes everything

A large portion of federal executives said the proliferation of mobile devices in the workplace is making it more difficult to restore operations, largely because many decision-makers believe smartphones, tablets and other gadgets are unreliable. At the same time, 59 percent of respondents said they have no cloud-based solutions in place to back up their recovery initiatives.

In a separate report, IT expert Rick Blaisdell highlighted how using cloud services can dramatically improve an organization's chances of surviving a natural or man-made disaster, as the hosted environments are often better at protecting data and are more accessible in the long run. Because the cloud is easy to use, decision-makers should consider implementing a hosted PBX solution or some other cloud-enabled technology to guarantee that communications, at least, can be restored in the wake of an emergency. Getting collaboration services back up and running during the aftermath of a disaster is critical, as both complex and basic operations will be put on hold.

Blaisdell also said that the cloud is extremely scalable, meaning federal agencies using a cloud VoIP will not necessarily be overwhelmed by voice traffic when all other services are impaired. This is especially important for organizations that need to support a contact center. If executives implement a cloud-based phone system, agencies will still have the ability to communicate with clients and partners that need reassurance.

Because the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season began on June 1 and is expected to last through November 30, decision-makers across the public sector need to consider getting a head start and developing some sort of continuity effort to ensure communications and mission-critical data can be recovered quickly and efficiently in the wake of an emergency. If federal executives do not take the appropriate precautions to ensure sensitive resources are not available when operations are at their most vulnerable during the aftermath of a natural or man-made disaster, they will find it increasingly difficult to survive.