Posted by Mark Troselj, VP and Managing Director for Asia Pacific and Japan, NetSuite

Many of cloud computing’s benefits are well-known, including greater flexibility, scalability and lower IT costs. But cloud also excels in providing business continuity against unplanned disruptions such as power outages, server room fires and natural disasters. In order to protect your business with a sound disaster recovery plan, cloud needs to be an integral part of your company planning.

In a recent webcast, "Reducing Supply Chain Risks with the Cloud," corporate consulting and research firm Frost & Sullivan, estimated that the 2011 floods in Bangkok, Thailand severely disrupted as many as 50,000 businesses and wreaked havoc on global supply chains going into, or out of, the country. In Brisbane, Australia, a 2011 flood forced 20 percent of businesses in the city to shut their doors for an average of 8 days, with many not returning to normal business operations for31 days .

The same scenario has played out with other natural, as well as man-made disasters. Much of the lost revenue and recovery time isn't in rebuilding offices but recouping IT systems and data. Companies that keep their critical business applications and data on-premise, in server cabinets or computer rooms, are at enormous risk when disaster strikes. It can be weeks before employees can get back to access their files, and that data may not be in an accessible or useable state when they do.

The scale of the problem grows exponentially for businesses with global interests, such as those in logistics, manufacturing and distribution. These firms operate across multiple locations, with multiple partners and are at significant risk should their central IT systems suddenly become inaccessible.

Shipments, credit, raw materials, inventory information and plenty more data would be on hold leaving the global network in limbo.

According to a Frost & Sullivan survey of business leaders in Asia Pacific, nearly 90 percent of businesses believe that they are vulnerable to an event that could destroy the IT infrastrcture in their head office and 65 percent felt that the use of cloud computing would reduce the impact of that damage.

Mark Dougan, managing director ANZ at Frost & Sullivan listed three key areas where cloud computing, also called software-as-a-service (SaaS), serves as a crtical component of a disaster recovery plan:

  1. It enables employees to access data and other corporate resources from off-site locations;
  2. It gives employees the applications and other tools they need to do their jobs, even when not in the office; and
  3. It ultimately enables staff as a whole to get back to work and keep the businss running even if the physical offices have been destroyed.

According to Dougan, "Cloud providers have a much greater resilency than any busness can provide on its own. Cloud computing should be the central part of any disaster recovery plan."

Steve Orleow, general manager of BioPak, based in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney, Australia, would agree. A maker of environmentally sustainable packaging such as coffee cups, bags, and containers, BioPak moved its IT systems to NetSuite's cloud-based global ERP solution several years ago, initially to keep up with the business’ projected rapid growth.

"We were outgrowing our existing systems and preparing for fast growth. We wanted a product that supported our business strategies," explained Orleow.

The integrated, cloud-based NetSuite platform provided visibility into all of the company's data, including customer orders and status on a real time basis, making it possible for BioPak to keep customers better informed and to better analyse and forecast their own performance. The ability to view performance and operating data in real time also enables BioPak to catch errors in processes faster and give partners more access into the system via a specially created Netsuite screen with pieces of NetSuite functionality, said Orleow.

From a disaster recovery perspective, however, the best benefit is the ability to keep going in the face of adversity, because the data and applicatons are all in the cloud.

"If our business was shut down by a flood," said Orleow, "we could operate normally from anywhere. Our staff from home could dial in and continue to operate as they would from the office."