Is it time to switch software service providers? The importance of a disaster recovery plan.

12th February 2018

When it comes to disaster recovery and management a lot of software providers fall short of the basic requirements. When software providers suffer repeat interruptions from power outages, you have to know that contingency plans have somehow been tossed onto the back burner.

It’s not uncommon for mistakes to occur or for companies to experience some kind of disruption to their business beyond their control. We, after all, live in a world where cyber attacks, terrorism, construction faults and repairs and any multitude of national disasters can interfere with the everyday workings of a business.

However, what I feel is unacceptable, in this day and age, is for a software service provider to not have some kind of back up or disaster recovery (DR) plan and, more importantly, for those contingency measures to be thoroughly tested.

There are several ways in which software providers can prepare for outages and other disasters of this nature. Back up power generators and data centres need to be relied upon. It’s vital to have more than one data centre set up in various locations, possibly even outside of the United Kingdom should a crisis put an entire city or are out of commission.

The testing of these DR plans is also vital because it’s not enough to have a plan in place – it has to be a resilient and reliable plan. Pressure tests need to be conducted on a regular basis to ensure that the technology still works in the event of a terror attack or if, for example a major construction work interrupts operations. Software providers need to have a model for all these scenarios. This is all normal, sensible DR good practice.

Brokers rely heavily on software providers but it’s also important for brokers to consider their end customer and how they are affected by outages and disasters as a result of their choice of providers.

Brokers have to share the responsibility if they have made a choice to contract with a service provider in spite of the fact that what they deliver is prone to or vulnerable to constant outages and problems of this nature. It’s no good solely blaming the provider when you have the choice to switch if you feel their DR plans are not up to scratch.

Brokers have a duty to ask their software provider hard and perhaps even uncomfortable questions to establish whether a good and robust DR management programme is in place. Where are their data centres? What happens in the event that they lose one? Do they have more than one? What happens in the event of a power outage? How robust is their firewall and cyber protection software? It’s vital to not only ask your provider if they have tested their systems but to ask them if they have proof of such stress tests.

You don’t want to be put in a position where you have to explain to your customer why they can’t renew their insurance policies. With such a competitive landscape it’s relatively easy for consumers to approach a rival firm that isn’t subject to the same problems and get a policy with them.

If a software provider has a history of outages then alarm bells should be ringing, especially if no resilient plans to prevent such a disaster aren’t in place.

The mere thought of switching may make your stomach turn because of the logistics and expense involved. But you may be surprised how easy it is. Talk to a competitor or two and you may find that switching is a relatively straight forward process and that it’s in fact more of a headache to remain with the current status quo.

However, I believe that if a software provider can’t demonstrate a certain level of resilience, it’s best to just walk away. If you still don’t think you can switch to another provider at least have a compensation agreement in place should your company be the victim of an outage or disaster that the software provider should have mitigated and you lose customers as a result.

It’s vital to prevent a problem from happening in the first place. It’s best to rather build a fence around a lake than to try and save someone while they’re drowning. You owe it to your company, your staff and your customers to at least investigate switching to another provider. Because the next time a major outage takes place, your end customer may not be so understanding.

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