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Fire at St Andrews University

Proofing your Business Against a Local IT Disaster

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Written by Shackleton Technologies

Fire at St Andrews University

When the University of St Andrews experienced a major fire on campus in February 2019, the damage was catastrophic.

The blaze started in one of the biomedical science labs and quickly spread elsewhere in the building. Just a handful of rooms were damaged by fire, but the final impact was significant.

Fire-fighting efforts saw thousands of gallons of water pumped into the building, flooding all four floors and causing massive damage to equipment, furnishings and research.

Fortunately, no one was injured in the fire – but years of research was at risk as power was cut to the building.

The University is still counting the cost of the damage, particularly as they will be unable to resume normal operations for many months.

Robust internal contingency planning means that University researchers are still able to work but it may be some time before they are truly operational.

Work any place, any time

Many businesses still labour under the impression that a central office is absolutely essential to operations. And in the case of the University’s lab-based researchers, that is true. But for most businesses, the central office model is increasingly unnecessary.

A whole range of Cloud-based services mean that employees can work from virtually anywhere, so long as they have a decent internet connection.

Office 365 for instance, allows employees to access emails, calendars, share and collaborate on files with SharePoint and other productivity tools using smartphone apps and web browsers.

Similarly, Skype for Business (included with certain Office 365 subscriptions) allows calls and instant messages to communicate with colleagues, clients and suppliers, anywhere. So, if they can’t make it into the office, they can still pick up calls on their company extension.

Where a business uses a specialist application, like ERP or CRM, there are ways to make them available externally too.

With access to data, tools and communications,  it is easy to operate at full capacity from almost anywhere.

In the case of St Andrews University, researchers would – with remote access capabilities – still be able to carry out the important work of analysing existing datasets.

Dealing with a disaster

In the event of any catastrophe, businesses need to be able to bring operations back online as quickly as possible. Operational downtime means lost revenue, potentially threatening the ability of a business to continue trading.

Most businesses already have some form of backup regime in place, like a series of disks that are swapped offsite each day.  Not all businesses have a system for restoring that data quickly however and that can have very serious consequences.

One option is the use of a hybrid backup model. You still use removable media for local backups, but data is also copied to the Cloud. A business continuity solution such as Datto or data recovery product, SolarWinds Backup, ensures there is always a copy of your files available, no matter how bad the damage to your office. Importantly, both these tools are designed to make recovery fast and reliable, dramatically reducing the time that your business is offline.

Act now – before the next storm

Natural disasters such as fires and flooding are totally unpredictable but proper preparation can largely mitigate the threat.

Technologies exist to keep businesses running in almost any event but these measures need to be in place before disaster strikes. 

To find out more about disaster recovery and business continuity,.

Contact Shackleton today.