When the first earthquake hit on Sept 4th, I was in Christchurch doing some routine maintenance at a client’s head-office. Aside from a pretty scary near-miss involving a million-year-old chimney, it was a relatively minor event as far their IT went and they were back to work within a couple of weeks. In the February 22nd earthquake however, their office was totaled.
The costs to Christchurch in terms of lives lost or uprooted and frayed nerves has been given heaps of coverage since the quake. It’s been an enormously traumatic six months for our second-biggest city and in the business sector we’re hearing about owners who have survived with lives and staff intact but with offices and IT systems un-reachable or even, completely destroyed.
Many of these businesses are rallying together – larger corporations are re-locating staff to other centres, while smaller guys are, in some cases, working off laptops at the CEO’s house. We’ve seen organizations like Melanie Morris’s Christchurch Business Recovery Centre open to help SMEs get back on their feet by providing services ranging from access to office equipment like stationary and computers, right through to boardrooms and a place to have your mail delivered.
One of the major problems facing many of these businesses though is data-retrieval or loss. This is a crippling problem that, for many, will spell the end of a business they’ve poured their heart and soul into.
The client I was visiting in September was saved this issue because a few months ago, they converted to a cloud hosted service for their email and data storage. For so many other businesses I’ve helped out over the past few weeks though, the picture is much more grim. Many of them were running off a physical server, stored in their building, which is now completely unreachable. All their project, job information, financial records, client contacts, staff records and business information are lost or, at best, only as up to date as their last back-up. In many cases, this means more than a month of data lost.
We’ve been helping out some of our IT mates down in Christchurch by restoring the most recent back-up of their clients’ data on virtual machines hosted in the cloud which, in most cases, means these businesses can get back up and running within a day. Being hosted in the cloud means that if something happens to the computer system they’re working on – an aftershock causes more damage or a laptop simply breaks down for some reason – their data is current and safe, with a number of back-ups stored around the country. Hopefully meaning one less thing for these frazzled business owners to worry about.
Until recently, Microsoft’s Small Business Server was really the only option for most growing businesses. Data costs were astronomical if you were using the cloud for everyday server storage. Now though, the cost of sending all that information back and forth to off-site servers is so low it often works out cheaper than installing an on-site server. One of the big benefits to this is that your data is being backed-up in real-time at a number of different server storage locations around the country. This means, even if something was to happen to your office, there are duplicate copies of your data, heavily encrypted and safely stored in units elsewhere in NZ.
We’re doing as much as we can to help businesses get back on their feet until their regular Christchurch based IT providers can take over again. Then we’re going to be systematically making sure our own clients are protected if this sort of event happens again.