When K.E. Andrews (KEA), a tax and financial services firm focused on the energy industry, suffered a ransomware attack, it not only lost valuable data, but about a week’s worth of work that had to be restored. “The incident made us realize we had to change how we were backing things up,” said IT director Shane Bradford.

Previously the firm was relying on tape backup. The ransomware incident brought to light the fact that recovering data was too slow using tape, and it was time to upgrade to a system that could supply faster, more reliable data protection.  K.E. Andrews purchased a cloud-based solution to back up their mission-critical data, “as a layer of insurance,” said Bradford.

K.E. Andrews’ event speaks to a hot business topic today: business continuity. Since accounting and financial services firms are charged with the protection of sensitive client data, achieving business continuity must include reliable data backup and recovery.

Disaster recovery in the cloud, and its advanced solution, disaster recovery-as-a-service, DRaaS¸ is gaining adoption as the preferred method for ensuring business continuity. Moving backup and recovery to the cloud gives further assurance your data can be restored quickly after a disruptive event. DRaaS takes it one step further by offering the ability to restore not only data but also operations and applications in the cloud.

If you are a firm still dependent on legacy backup, and looking to move to a more advanced disaster recovery solution, here are key issues to consider:

1. Analyze cost versus benefit. Before running right out and purchasing a new backup and recovery solution, look at balancing the cost of the solution with what the business needs. A critical data point is how fast you need to be back in operation after a disruptive event. Firms may not need the mission-critical redundancy that a stock exchange has. Does a 15-minute restore from the cloud seem appropriate for your business, or would a two hour disaster recovery timeframe be acceptable?  In terms of hard dollar costs and complexity, deciding a comfortable business continuity timeframe is an important first step.

2. Determining desired backup speed. Financial services and accounting firms are data-intensive businesses. As datasets continue to increase in size, you’ll want a solution that provides the backup speed you need. For example, if a disruptive event does occur, you want the most current data to be restored. This ‘backup window’ is an important element in business continuity.  A high-speed data transfer rate provides a much better shot at successful backup for large data sets to ensure systems and applications are backed up within a specified window with minimal disruption.

3. Prioritize recovery content. You want data backed up efficiently, but data is not a one-size-fits-all dynamic. For accounting firms, think about what data needs to be recovered in a disaster. Is it simply a copy of QuickBooks and backup of some files? Or is it a more complicated ERP/Great Plains type of deployment? Disaster recovery doesn't have to mean everything is exactly the same as before the disaster. You need to think about what data is essential to business continuity and plan for those files to be available in the cloud.

4. Spin up physical and virtual servers and applications in the cloud. Many firms now rely on both physical and virtual servers. When evaluating a disaster recovery solution, determine whether it can run both physical and virtual servers and applications from the cloud without interruption to workflow. This will help you continue on with business as usual following a larger site disaster.

5. Plan for your remote offices post-event. It is important to fully understand the needs of any remote offices should an event occur, and plan for how your solution will enable them, via the cloud, to resume operations. If you are currently using physical backup appliances that sit between your server and the cloud connection, you will need to replace the appliance when a disruptive event occurs. This will slow down business continuity and create costly downtime in your remote offices. This is where the cloud, and an appliance-free solution that enables spinning up servers, can make the difference in quickly restoring workflow.

For K.E. Andrews, moving their most important data to the cloud meant peace of mind and an assurance that important documents like audits and valuations could be retrieved without delay, should a disruptive event occur. They now have a business continuity solution in place to protect their data.  As more firms move to the cloud, consider the competitive advantage of knowing you can retrieve your client files in the timeframe that is acceptable, and with the knowledge you have the most current data available and easy to restore.

Jeff Whitehead is CTO and co-founder of Zetta and an expert in cloud-based data protection, and online backup and disaster recovery.

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