For tax professionals during tax season, no two words evoke more dread than "system downtime." Whether caused by power outage or software glitch, downtime is more than an inconvenience – it’s a completely preventable source of lost profits and enormous employee frustration. Interruptions of any length to business operations during this critical time can mean unhappy clients, a tarnished reputation and chaos. All too often it’s believed that IT downtime is some combination of bad luck and the nature of IT systems; maybe the bad luck is true, but eliminating downtime of complex IT systems is a solved problem. Today, no organization should accept IT downtime as a given.
The best defense against IT downtime is to have a solid business continuity plan in place that ensures maximum uptime even in the face of disaster. A good business continuity plan will include some analysis of what the critical IT systems are, how long they can be down before the business is impacted, and how quickly they must be brought back up. With this basic information in place, tax and accounting firms can assess what recovery technology is needed.
For example, many CPAs and tax-preparation firms turn to tape, disk, or cloud backup to protect against system downtime. This approach is all about being able to recover the data, but does not address the need for recovering servers and applications to process that data. Especially in the case where there is an urgent need to process the data (such as tax deadlines), a “data-backup-only” approach does not address the need to be back up and running quickly. If the business continuity plan requires a critical system to be back up in minutes (or hours), a data-backup-only strategy will never meet those objectives.
Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) — and specifically hybrid cloud solutions — on the other hand, are popular emerging trends for when the business continuity plan requires instant system recovery. Perfect for midmarket businesses that can't afford or don't want to maintain a colocation site, the best of these solutions go beyond simple backup and recovery to actually restore data, applications and systems in a single step. They take incremental snapshots of servers so that archives are constantly updated and assets such as tax-preparation applications are instantly restored. Better yet, some even offer on-demand and automatic testing, which, when performed regularly, is paramount in reducing instances of system downtime.
Tax professionals that require maximum uptime (in theory, everyone) can find peace of mind in knowing their disaster recovery options are more than just recovering data, but now also include getting instant recovery of the entire system. With a DRaaS solution in place, surviving tax season unscathed can be a reality.
John Gallagher is vice president ot marketing at Quorum.