Have a plan ready to protect your system from further harm in a disaster.

The short answer is yes, you always need a disaster recovery plan. However, the urgency is significantly less when you use Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central in a Software as a Service (SaaS) configuration compared to having an in-house server network. Having your accounting or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system running in the cloud removes or reduces a number of risks, but it won’t solve all your problems in the event of a catastrophe. To better understand this issue readers need to understand the basics of a Business Central SaaS environment.

 

The database runs on Microsoft’s dedicated SQL Azure servers with a guaranteed uptime of 99.9%

A major difference between Microsoft’s and your typical localized servers is that Microsoft is continually scanning the environment for problems and fixing them proactively. With localized services, you generally find out about problems after they happen and your system is down.

 

Each Business Central database has four live copies, the first three in the customer’s primary data center and the last one in a geo-redundant location

If the primary database copy goes down, the system automatically flips over to the secondary copy and a new live copy is spun up. If the entire primary data center goes down or contact is lost, the customer is connected to the fourth copy in the second center.

 

Microsoft develops patches and applies them generally before virus makers are aware of the vulnerabilities

Most viruses are developed after Microsoft has identified a vulnerability, developed a patch, and patched their servers. A local server may not be updated as quickly and it is these servers the virus makers are hoping to take advantage of. They are gambling that they can create a virus to exploit the problem before people patch their equipment. Virus generating software speeds up this process for the bad guys.

 

A customer is far more likely to lose their internet connection than have a Microsoft data center go down

For many customers, reconnecting to the Business Central database can be as simple as setting up a hotspot using a cell phone. A high speed cell connection is fast enough to support a few connections and the Business Central database will easily be available for either a linked computer or via a mobile Business Central app on a smartphone or tablet.

 

The latest version of Business Central (v. 15) now allows copies of databases to be downloaded

This means customers can now keep database backup copies locally and in another web location. This does need to be scheduled or done manually but does offer some additional assurance beyond already having four live copies of your database in two different locations.

 

So, why bother with a disaster recovery plan?

It is not really a technology question anymore when you are utilizing a Dynamics 365 Business Central database in a SaaS environment. It is about preparedness so you aren’t caught flat-footed if some catastrophe happens. A delay of even one day to get people up and running is costly. If it takes longer, the costs escalate rather quickly in lost productivity or sales.

 

As a system user, you need to plan how to react if you happen to lose access to the system. Here are a few actions to consider:
  1. Identify whether the internet connection is still working.
  2. If it is not, spend no more than one half hour troubleshooting the problem with your provider and IT staff. Then you should have a process in place to set up cellphone hotspots (or the equivalent) to get your key users working again. Certain users may have paper forms ready to go in an emergency, which can then be input into the system when it comes back up. Have a plan ready, train your users, and document the emergency procedures to follow!
  3. If the internet is working and access to Microsoft seems to be lost, contact your Business Central partner as quickly as possible to make sure they are working on the problem. Outages are rare and generally short in duration, but they may occur.
  4. In the very unlikely event the database on the Microsoft server is corrupted or lost, users should have a process to run manually for an extended period of time. The next step will depend on Microsoft’s response. They may be able to get their system running again without any loss of data but you may need to take that periodic database download you have stored in a safe place and restore it. This may mean the loss of one or more days of data.

 

We hope this short discussion helps you in deciding what recovery elements to implement for your organization to be better prepared for possible disasters. If you need help with setting up a disaster recovery plan or have any questions, please contact us here.

 

 

*Do you know if updates are actually free for your specific Dynamics 365 Business Central deployment or not? Check out our previous blog here to find out.