Isle of Man Digital head of e-Gaming Tony Ure explains why disaster recovery is so important for online gambling businesses and what to take into account when deciding which jurisdiction to work with.

The last thing you will be thinking about right now is disaster striking and doing untold damage to your business or the organisation you work for. The modern world in which we live and work is considered to be safe, allowing companies to ply their trade in international markets.

But if the last few months are anything to go by, the world in which we live and work is rather volatile with disaster around every corner.

While these situations may not present an immediate threat to you and your business – although in some cases they might – they are good examples of how circumstances outside of your control can have an unforeseen yet huge impact on the ability of your organisation to operate.

This is why a growing number of organisations, particularly in the online gambling sector, are setting out disaster recovery plans and protocols to ensure they can continue to operate to the highest possible standards should disaster strike in their primary jurisdiction.

The best way to avert disaster is to plan for disaster

The biggest fear for any online gambling business is a disruption to their business. This is not just due to lost revenues but also because it can put consumers and clients at risk if processes for anti-money laundering, fraud and player protections shut down.

The most effective way to avoid this from happening is to have a disaster recovery plan that can be followed in the event that a major problem hits the business. This usually means hosting systems and servers in a secondary jurisdiction that is safe and secure.

When choosing a jurisdiction, online gambling businesses should take into account factors such as infrastructure, power, connectivity and the speed and ease at which they can activate their disaster recovery plan when incident strikes.

What a disaster recovery plan should look like

A disaster recovery plan, while comprehensive, should be fairly straight forward. In short, it is simply the processes that take place in the event that disaster strikes. By having these documented, the necessary actions can be taken at the necessary time to ensure the business keeps running.

What’s more, disaster recovery plans should be regularly revised and updated to ensure they meet the ever-changing needs of the business. It is also important to keep checking that the jurisdiction hosting the disaster recovery plan continues to meet your needs.

Why some online gambling companies do not prioritise disaster recovery

Disaster recovery should be a fundamental pillar in any online gambling business. Without a plan, if and when disaster strikes the organisation is simply unprepared and not in a position to take the necessary steps to protect their business and their customers/clients.

Disaster recovery helps to protect revenues by ensuring products and services remain available. This means customers are not aware of any outage and continue to receive the products and services they are seeking to access. This, in turn, stops them going elsewhere.

Which jurisdictions provide the best disaster recovery

There are many jurisdictions that provide disaster recovery services, and each has its pros and cons. But there are key factors that online gambling businesses should look for when deciding where to host their disaster recovery plans.

This includes:

• Network capacity and whether they have a resilient power and communications infrastructure
• What data centres are available and do they currently have the capacity for your needs and requirements
• Is the jurisdiction geographically safe, what is their natural disaster risk and are crime levels low compared to other countries
• Is the government stable and does it support business, particularly online gambling and technology organisations
• Does the jurisdiction hold accreditations for things like data privacy and GDPR that will allow for a seamless flow of data between jurisdictions

By way of example, in 2008 cables linking Alexandria, Egypt, Sicily, and Malta were cut by either bad weather conditions or a ship's anchor, resulting in substantial slowdowns in communication traffic. The break disrupted 75% of communication between the Middle East and Asia and the rest of the world.

In the Isle of Man, we have five separate sub-sea cables positioned at various points around the island that connect us to both the UK and Ireland. This means that in the unlikely event that one of our cables is damaged, we have another four that can be used and thus connectivity remains.

Disaster recovery may not be a top priority for online gambling operators, but it really should be. You just need to look at the events taking place around the world to see that disaster is only ever around the corner and the only way to avert disaster is to plan for it.

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