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Disaster Avoidance-The Real Disaster is Focusing on Recovery

April 10, 2013 / Scott Kinka

Since early fall 2012, the Northeast region of the U.S. was repeatedly slammed with blow after blow from Mother Nature. From tropical storms and tornados to blizzards, weather-pattern anomalies paralyzed communities from Washington, D.C. through Portland, Maine in the last months. For these communities, spring couldn’t have come quick enough.

Despite cute names like ‘Nemo,’ a ferocious blizzard that disrupted the lives of 40 million in early February, and ‘Sandy,’ the infamous hurricane that wreaked havoc to the Jersey shore and lower Manhattan in October, these disasters have been nothing but ugly. The toll these natural disasters have taken on local businesses continues to rise even months later as these areas struggle to rebuild. Hurricane Sandy alone is estimated to cost $65 billion in total damages according to a report released in January 2013 by global reinsurance firm Aon Benfield.

But for national and global businesses with offices in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Boston and other major urban centers along the Northeast corridor, the show must go on. Business cannot stop just because three feet of snow buried power lines or gusting winds ripped through office buildings. The price of interruption is way too high – in the millions of dollars, for some organizations. Employing disaster recovery strategies is simply too little too late. Instead, the key is Disaster Avoidance.

Just ask Signal Hill, an international investment banking firm that specializes in guiding clients through mergers and acquisitions. While Signal Hill is headquartered in Baltimore, MD, it also has offices in Boston, San Fransico, Nashville, New York and Reston, as well as an international office in Bangalore, India. Signal Hill invested in Evolve IP’s virtual desktop and private cloud solution – The Evolved Office: Desktop – last year…and not a moment too soon. Just months after moving all of its employees’ desktops and line-of-business applications to Evolve IP’s servers to access through the cloud, Hurricane Sandy rocked the Northeast.

“Our New York office building had to shut down for over a week, but all of our employees were still able to access their desktops and critical server applications from home to continue business as usual,” said Michael Parent, a Managing Director in Signal Hill’s New York office. “We also experienced a number of severe storms in the D.C. area – the weather patterns have been extreme with a lot of potential disruptions, but not for us.”

Prior to switching to Evolve IP’s virtual desktop solution, Signal Hill operated one data center at its Baltimore location, plus a secondary facility for data recovery in Colorado. The company needed to upgrade aging hardware and software and employ in-house IT staff to maintain the same level of service availability to their users. The cost was high so they looked for an alternative and trialed the Evolve IP virtual desktop solution. The choice was clear.

Now, all employee desktops run in the Evolve IP private cloud and all data is centrally stored in and accessed through Evolve IP’s award-winning cloud network. They also rely on Evolve IP to host many of its enterprise applications including CRM, email, file storage and document management systems. Users access Evolve IP’s services from any device over the public internet for ubiquitous, device-agnostic access. It is 100% uptime with a redundant cloud platform, enabling disaster avoidance and making ‘disaster recovery’ quite immaterial.

Events like Hurricane Sandy demonstrate the value of moving services to a cloud platform where the weather has no impact. While many Evolve IP customers experienced local power and connectivity outages at their office locations after Sandy, their critical communications and computing environment continued to operate flawlessly in Evolve IP’s cloud. The architecture and geographically dispersed data centers allowed customers like Signal Hill, Colonial Electric Supply, Apria Health Care and dozens of others to easily re-route phone calls, use the cellular network and PSTN, and access desktops and critical files from their homes.

“We are a firm with global clients, so business cannot stop just because a storm has hit one particular region,” added Doug Webster, Managing Director of Signal Hill’s Internet Infrastructure group. “We all work in electronic files and not on paper and would be dead in the water if we lost access to our data in any office, for any amount of time. A poorly-timed business interruption could cost us significant revenue if it affected a merger or acquisition deal.”

Signal Hill’s Baltimore office was also tested when another series of devastating storms crushed the D.C. area later that winter. “Unfortunately, there were many different opportunities for disruptions from the winter storms, but we maintained business-as-usual without skipping a beat,” added Webster.

Handling sensitive information is a day-to-day activity for Signal Hill, so security remains just as important to the company as availability. Because M&A information is highly confidential, Signal Hill must maintain all data securely – any vulnerability could be disastrous and as financially damaging as a natural disaster of any kind. Evolve IP, however, ensures that even if a Signal Hill employee’s laptop or iPad is stolen or lost, there is no breach because the data is housed in the private cloud and no longer stored on the end device.

Evolve IP’s award-winning cloud platform enables organizations like Signal Hill to benefit from the world-class security, availability and performance typically reserved for Fortune 500 organizations. In contrast to the legacy, do-it-yourself model where an organization sets up or continually needs to re-invest in its own systems, data centers and infrastructure, Evolve IP provides the best-in-class software, hardware and architecture that frees up IT resources all while eliminating CAPEX and lowering an total cost of ownership.

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