The terrible cost of hurricanes and other natural disasters is principally counted in lost lives and devastated homes. But as neighbors help each other in the rebuilding process, a secondary toll, extracted from businesses affected by the disaster, becomes equally apparent. The destruction of economic infrastructure and capability exacerbates an already massive burden and lengthens the community’s recovery time.

But property management businesses can shield themselves from the most crippling effects of a disaster by backing up their databases to a secure off-site location in advance. Having a robust disaster recovery plan ready for activation following a disruptive event—localized building fires and floods as well as widespread disasters—will minimize downtime for property management businesses and allow them to collect rent, execute leases, and perform other essential functions.

Data hosting options

Real estate companies have a couple of options for safeguarding their crucial business data against catastrophic loss. They can host their critical operating data themselves, which means acquiring and maintaining the necessary IT, network security, and disaster recovery infrastructure.

Firms preferring to spare themselves this burden and concentrate on their core real estate business have another choice: They can let their software provider perform the data hosting function, which often proves to be a cost-effective approach that takes advantage of economies of scale. Property and asset management software provider Yardi Systems, Inc., for example, offers application service provider (ASP) hosting to its entire global portfolio of clients, from the largest multinational firms to small businesses. ASP clients’ user account data is maintained at five hosting sites in North America and Europe. The ASP option guarantees that client databases remains secure when disaster strikes—even something of the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina.

Providers boost disaster recovery

Even firms that opt out of the hosting function can enlist their software provider for disaster recovery purposes. This step involves replicating user accounts to the provider’s central data center via file transfer protocol. Ideally this is done daily but the backup frequency is left to the client’s discretion. One self-hosted company that selected this option is San Diego-based Fairfield Properties LP. “Our data is constantly being backed up. In a real emergency, our disaster recovery plan would allow us to be back in business in less than 24 hours,” said Kimberly Seidel, Fairfield’s database administrator. Fairfield IT officials conduct periodic drills that confirm connections to Yardi’s data center, verify the integrity of stored data, and validate test scripts. “Our database backup system and our emergency plans meet our needs precisely,” Seidel said.

Should one of the five hosting sites in North America and Europe undergo any type of failure, a business continuity plan redirects client activity to a centralized data center. The expected turnaround time following a disaster is 24 hours.

Business continuity validated

A solid backup plan pays off in peace of mind. BlackRock Realty Advisors, Inc., a Florham Park, N.J.-based hosted client that manages more than $30 billion of assets, seamlessly meshes its disaster recovery plan with everyday operations. “It’s not at all noticeable to the end user,” said BlackRock Vice President Helder Jacinto. “Our data is backed up every day, and we don’t have to worry about it.”The integrity of the business continuity plans is validated with biannual testing and regular recovery procedure rehearsals. “If you don’t test your plan, you’ll have issues. There’s no other way to know whether it works,” Jacinto said, adding BlackRock conducts an annual recovery drill in which all databases are sent to a backup server.

Disaster can strike at any time, with or without warning. Fortunately, an effective disaster recovery plan, adequately planned and regularly validated, can gird your business against permanent loss following a disaster. The swift recovery made possible by intelligent planning gets your business on its feet, keeps your clients well served, and showcases the affected community’s resilience.

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