Government agencies are living in uncharted territory. Across the U.S., state and local government leaders are managing the cessation of a broad range of operations, from courts to senior centers to libraries, as well as the mass transition of their staffs to working from home.
Disaster recovery (DR) has always been important to government, but those concerns traditionally centered on natural disasters. The current health crisis has changed the conversation, altering how government needs to view, develop and deploy business continuity plans. Citizens still require essential services, but given that most staff is working from home (something unheard of until now in many jurisdictions), government entities need to rethink current processes and how technology can help improve response and recovery.
Above all, a good business continuity plan must enable government to react to unexpected events. That means it’s critical for DR systems to run on a flexible platform that can adjust to new circumstances as needed. Government agencies in the process of searching for cloud solutions should seek those that are enterprise-grade, flexible, and allow agencies to use artificial intelligence to keep government informed and operational. When circumstances shift, those tools allow an organization to shift along with them.
An enterprise cloud infrastructure also makes it easier for an agency to move to a remote workforce without compromising security, especially when machine learning functionality can be included to automate the most routine data management tasks, such as tuning, security, backups, and updates. Autonomous capabilities ensure IT systems are protected even while government workers are remote or unable to perform tasks, with many routine management tasks being completed without any human intervention at all. As we have seen in the current crisis, cybercriminals double their efforts to target and exploit government systems in times of distress. According to Cloudflare, online threats rose by as much as six times their usual levels in March as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. Cloudflare research also revealed hacking and phishing attempts were up 37 percent month-on-month in March, while on some days, the firm was blocking between four and six times the number of attacks it would usually see.[i]
Enterprise-grade cloud also enables scalability. This is especially important when a crisis creates spikes in demand. For example, in March, several state unemployment websites crashed when they were suddenly overwhelmed with claims.[ii]
Finally, enterprise-grade cloud solutions provide an alternative for hosting standby databases for agencies that do not have a disaster recovery site or that prefer not to deal with the cost or complexity of managing a remote data center. For example, to make management of extra data centers easier and data refresh quicker, many organizations have their backup center in close physical proximity, connected by fiber optic cabling for speed of data transfer. Of course, this also incorporates an implied DR plan where a tornado would be required to make a hard turn between the two data centers to avoid both primary and secondary catastrophes from occurring simultaneously.
There are several alternatives to these potential scenarios. But only a cloud solution charges an organization only for what it needs.
Going forward, there are many important lessons to learn about how we can continue to provide critical government functions in times of crises and recover from major disruptions. There’s probably never going to be a better time to ensure your business continuity and DR plans are the best they can be.
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