Planning better continuity for your business

As business becomes increasingly dependant on digital platforms and data, companies are enjoying significant benefits from the efficiencies this new technology provides.

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As business becomes increasingly dependant on digital platforms and data, companies are enjoying significant benefits from the efficiencies this new technology provides. However, with better performance comes a host of new risks, including a well-resourced cybercrime industry, highlighting the need for cyber resilience to be integrated into an organisation’s business continuity management plans.

“The movement towards cloud computing has offered greater mobility for employees, thanks to improved bandwidth and better remote connectivity, and this has opened up many new opportunities for businesses and their business continuity capabilities. The Internet of things (IoT), cloud computing and hyperscale data centres have created so much more capability around data, but this has also created more opportunity for cybercrime,” explains Michael Davies, the CEO of ContinuitySA.

“This could be from malware such as ransomware, resulting in IT outages and while AI, machine learning and blockchain have given better capability, it also provides a deeper reach for hackers and a greater opportunity for data breaches and data theft. This is why it’s important to be able to lock down data from the cyber side, and our approach here is to protect, detect, restore and recover. If you look at traditional security, it’s primary focus is on the first two steps—protect and detect, but what we look at is also restoring and recovering,” he adds.

According to Davies, almost every organisation will, at some point, experience a form of data breach. And while it’s important to focus on the first two steps as a defence mechanism, organisations must have the ability to restore and recover their data to ensure business continuity.

“A lot of the cybercrime we are seeing is socially engineered. Of course, there is a large IT component but what is often overlooked are the people and processes involved in everyday operations. Let’s say a hacker drops a virus-infected flash stick entitled ‘salaries’; the natural curiosity of people can result in someone inserting that flash stick into a network-connected device, data could fall into the wrong hands and the security of the network could potentially be compromised. There are also phishing exercises and people are sometimes just too quick to act, leading to a cyber incident. From our side, we do try to create better awareness, training people on how to avoid these scams and working with clients on their crisis communications. This can be a great challenge as it normally takes quite a bit of time to understand the extent of a data breach and quite often, hackers have been in your system for a while.

“We live in a scary world and things can happen very fast. Machine learning, while a step forward for us, is also a really good tool for hackers, who can now populate systems with viruses using machine learning, and with this new technology, it enables the hackers to keep trying until they are successful,” he explains.

Davies also believes that many South African businesses are underprepared, in terms of both budget and skills for building their cyber resilience.

With the Fourth Industrial Revolution upon us, the ever-changing technology can be very difficult to keep up with. Viruses can adapt and change within a month and it is difficult to have both the skills and budget to keep up with the constant change.

“The reality is that you can’t spend enough money on cybersecurity, so it’s important to allocate an appropriate budget and prioritise the steps most important to you,” he says.

ContinuitySA is an award-winning leader in business continuity and resilience services in Africa. Established almost 30 years ago, the company has become the leader in organisational resilience and business continuity management on the continent, ensuring that their clients can continue to operate effectively through any disruptive event.

ContinuitySA offers a complete business continuity management (BCM) solution and fully managed ICT resilience through backup and recovery solutions, leveraging off their extensive nationwide base of infrastructure, data centres, bandwidth and ICT capability.

“The company has really grown, evolving from traditional IT disaster recovery (DR) to business continuity and resilience. We are a very different company compared to the one started 30 years ago. Back then, we mainly operated in the financial sector due to more demanding DR legislation in that sector, using tape backups and backups to connected hardware devices. Technology has obviously greatly improved since then and when it comes to data, we now have greater bandwidth, greater storage capacity and greater speeds. Building on from disaster recovery to business continuity and now resilience, we have increased our focus not only on the data but also the people and processes involved.

“ContinuitySA starts with a business impact analysis and risk/threat assessment, working to understand an organisation through interviews with everyone from executives to the workers on the floor. We need to identify and understand every single point of failure and from that, we draw up a business continuity plan, highlighting exactly what the business needs to ensure operations continue seamlessly.

“We also now take a much more proactive view in managing incidents before they arise, during and after. We offer peace of mind to our clients by building their resilience so that they can withstand potential and actual incidents. Considering that we now live in a demanding 24/7, ‘always on’ world, there is a growing demand and greater criticality for being resilient,” Davies says.

ContinuitySA has offices in South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Mauritius and Kenya, though they do advisory work all around the world. They are also part of the Dimension Data group, a group company of the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT)—a large global company with over 200 000 employees with its headquarters in Japan.

ContinuitySA is also a gold partner of the Business Continuity Institute (BCI), the leading global membership and certifying organisation for business continuity and resilience professionals. The BCI hosts an annual awards programme to recognise individuals, teams and companies that lead the industry on the continent, and ContinuitySA has won a number of awards this past year as well as in previous years.

Davies was named Continuity and Resilience Industry Personality of the Year for 2018, and Advisory Consultant, Movashan Moodley was awarded the Newcomer of the Year for the advisory side of their business. They have also been inducted into the BCI’s Global Hall of Fame after it won the award for Business Continuity Provider of the Year for three consecutive years in 2014, 2015 and 2016

“More recently, we were delighted to win an award from IRMSA in the category of Professional Services, Training Providers, Consultants and Auditors for our outstanding contribution to risk management. The award specifically recognised our recently developed business continuity application, which provides crucial business continuity information to our clients on their mobile devices,” he says.

Corporate social investment is especially important to ContinuitySA, and they have run numerous projects to uplift communities and enhance their industry through skills development.

“We’ve donated PCs to schools, run numerous training programmes and undertaken graduate and learnership programmes in business continuity as there is a lack of skills specific to our industry. Over the years, we’ve seen numerous students come through our programmes and whether they stay with the company or not, we consider this programme successful because, ultimately, we have given them the opportunity to go into the marketplace where there is a growing demand and use their business continuity management skills,” he enthuses.

Davies has been involved in the business continuity industry for more than 10 years, having spent the last 20 years in the IT industry with companies such as Dimension Data, Enterprise Technologies, Amdahl Corporation, Computer Configurations and MGX.

“I’ve been with the company for 15 years, starting in a financial management role. I was appointed as the Managing Director in 2011, moving into the CEO role later, when the company’s founder, Allen Smith retired a couple of years ago,” he says.

From a financial management perspective, Davies has learnt a great deal, particularly the importance of paying attention to detail. He is careful never to make assumptions, double-checking things and, of course, it has taught him to work to strict deadlines.

“Through financial management, I have also been involved in different aspects of a business, from operations to sales and service delivery. As the CEO, it is very different from a leadership perspective. You have to take people to where they want to go and you want to have engaged, committed employees working with you. We have a great team at ContinuitySA and I live by a very simple philosophy: be inspired and be inspirational. To me, that means doing things you’re passionate about to the best of your ability and, at the same time, being a good example to everyone around you, from your employees to your family and friends. It is also important to be able to have fun. I see my role here as an ambassador and it’s important that I set the right example.

“There’s a new challenge every day and that’s because we live in an always-on volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. Everyone wants everything done right now, so it’s tough getting enough done in a day. It’s important to prioritise the right things but things can still go wrong, and it can get heated very quickly. To combat this, I make sure to keep people motivated and on track, making sure that they always understand our purpose and vision,” Davies concludes.

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