Mother Nature to Business: Don’t Forget About Me

“Hey, we should write something about business continuity” Matt O’Brien, Bullhorn’s manager for the Mid-Atlantic region, emailed from his car. Which was now his office thanks to Hurricaine Irene. And this less than a week after a 5.8 level earthquake rattled his Richmond, VA home. Clearly, our focus now should be on helping neighbors and other communities recover. But as I helplessly watched floods sweep away the businesses of friends in Vermont I wondered, might the widespread adoption of software-as-a-service ease recovery from this and future disasters?

Anyone running their business with cloud-based software like Bullhorn, Google Apps, or NetSuite can get back to their business information exactly where they left off once power and Internet access return. Or even sooner now that SaaS apps can be accessed via smartphones. Employees on the road or working from other offices remain fully productive regardless of the situation at headquarters. In contrast, customer lists, order information, accounting data and any other business information managed via servers on the premises may be lost for good. The same holds true for consumers. Treasured family pictures stored with Snapfish and personal financial information with Mint will still be there. Of course these things represent just a fraction of what is lost, but are still no doubt meaningful.

Some might counter that we’ve just concentrated the business continuity risk into a few huge data centers so that if a disaster hits one of them then thousands of businesses will be taken out at one time. But last week’s events, which hammered data centers up and down the East Coast, proved that they are well-prepaired. For instance, Bullhorn’s data center has multiple, redundant internet and power connections as well as several stand-by diesel generators with thousands of gallons of fuel for on-site back-up power. Not to mention back-up routines and an ops staff larger than even our biggest customers could support on their own. So while macroeconomic uncertainty still tops business leaders’ list of worries, recent disasters remind us that the age-old perils still exist.

Hopefully Matt gets power back soon and can move operations back inside. That is, until it starts raining frogs and the plague of locusts hits.

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