[Interview] Pete Frielinghaus, Managing Director, Continuity East Africa, Kenya
He talked to Africa Business Communities about the company’s business model, the cybersecurity landscape in East Africa, the growing appetite for Business Continuity Management solutions and how the company is responding to these needs.
Tell us about ContinuityEastAfrica and your role in it
I am Managing Director of Continuity East Africa and I was tasked to establish this recovery site to serve the East African market in Business Continuity Management (BCM) and operational resilience, I established a similar operation in Mauritius in 2008 after which I developed and successfully managed the business until 2013.
Continuity East Africa (CEA) is a relatively new company in Kenya, this is our third year of operations in Nairobi, however our history goes back over 30 years. CEA is made up of 2 shareholders, Internet Solutions Kenya (ISK) and ContinuitySA (CSA) both of whom are 50/50 owners of this joint venture.
CEA in conjunction with ContinuitySA has been focused on Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity for the past 30 years, focusing solely on Disaster Recovery, Business Continuity and Business Resilience - we formed part of the Dimension Data Group in 2014 as did ISK which was formally Access Kenya.
The ContinuitySA group have over 30 years’ experience in the provision of BCM services and solutions and we operate over 3,500 work area recovery seats at various recovery centres located throughout Southern Africa as well as a comprehensive range of ICT recovery equipment which caters to a broad range of technology requirements – these recovery sites are in Kenya, Mozambique, Botswana, Mauritius and a 3 large facilities in South Africa catering for several thousand office recovery seats.
Our expansive and fully equipped recovery centres are maintained in a constant state of readiness in order to ensure rapid occupation by clients when needed.
What recent trends have you noticed in cybersecurity and how is your business addressing them?
It's all about resilience, holistic resilience. We live in a VUCA word – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. We need to be prepared for all these challenges and be able to continue operating in this VUCA world
Cyber Attacks and Cyber Threats are an absolute reality for all businesses in the modern-day arena, no business can be entirely confident that their security measures will withstand a targeted cyber-attack, this is where business continuity steps in.
When all else has failed, you still need the ability to continue your operations and to maintain your overall resilience – the two disciplines work hand in hand and are very much part of the same arsenal in overcoming these threats.
As the saying goes “there are two types of companies, those that have been hacked and those that do not know they have been hacked or yet to be hacked”. Maintaining a constant secure environment in your business is critical to prevent hacking attacks, but it should not be taken for granted, as all it takes is something as small as an employee opening an email they shouldn’t to compromise your ICT environment.
When this happens, being prepared for these eventualities is the difference between a company surviving or failing a cyber-attack
How has your company positioned itself to offer continuity to businesses in the event of disasters?
ContinuityEastAfrica is the leading specialist BCM Company in East Africa offering an unparalleled depth of skills, and experience in Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity. We offer proven end-to-end BCM solutions encompassing Advisory Services on the implementation of best practice BCM programmes as well as practical and sustainable ICT Continuity facilities and infrastructure.
ContinuityEastAfrica provides a variety of hosting solutions, ranging from co-located to fully managed virtualised environments, with our primary focus being to ensure our clients are able to address the resilience and recoverability of their IT services. Our hosting services are complimented by managed backup and recovery services, virtual server replication and high availability solutions to satisfy any level of continuity requirement.
This sets us apart from our competition as we are able to leverage our in-depth experience to ensure our solutions comply with leading best practise, in addition to being practical and tailored to client specific needs.
We have experience in actual disasters and have assisted our clients in recovering from complete disasters, including total loss of facilities through fire and know we can deliver what it takes to help the client recover.
Our parent company, ContinuitySA in South Africa experiences over 50 invocations per year of multiple clients declaring incidents. This experience of dealing with disasters and handling clients on site at the various recovery facilities is what differentiates us from our competitors
The plans produced are therefore not just theoretical, but stress-tested in real, extreme disaster situations.
Plans that have not been tested in practice are not real plans.
Your company has one of the most elaborate data recovery infrastructures in the region. Tell us more about the investment and how it has assisted you in responding to disasters
There are a lot of Data Centres in Kenya but no end to end commercial business continuity recovery facilities at all in Eastern Africa that can also cater for business recovery; as I've mentioned we have a vast amount of experience from the past and we know what it takes in terms of technology and funding to provide the right type of infrastructure and the right recovery environment for companies requiring this type of resilience.
There are banks in Kenya that have developed their own in-house recovery facilities, and some do work well.
However, there are some inhouse recovery facilities in the East Africa Region that are purely there for window dressing and do not necessarily possess the capability to ensure full scale recovery. These are typically found where businesses build small recovery centres spread-out over several branches, unfortunately, these distributed recovery models invariably fail due to the lack of an integrated solution.
We have put our money where our mouths are and are committed to providing this service for many years to come – both in Kenya and regionally
How has the market responded to your services?
The market has responded incredibly well there is a definite demand for this type of specialised service in East Africa. One of the major drivers for clients taking up our services is the economy of scale we offer.
Because we are syndicating most of the infrastructure such as utilities, generators UPS systems, skill, security, building management etc. we can offer our services as an operational expense far more efficiently than a capital-based expense typical of in-house built facilities
Who are your clients?
Our clients are primarily those from the financial sector however we have representation from many other sectors too, it has proven that those industries which are more regulated and have a stricter requirement in terms of compliance, are the first to take up these types of services.
In addition to this, we are seeing more companies from various business sectors that are doing business with banks, knocking on our door and looking for BCM services.
The main reason for this is that banks do require their supply chain to be robust and capable of business and/or technology recovery in the event of a disruption. The driving force behind this is simple, it’s us, the man on the street and every business that has a bank account who wants their banking service to be “Always On”.
Are there success stories of ContinuityEastAfrica in Africa that you can quote?
Yes, there are plenty, looking back at the last 30 years we have many, many success stories of companies invoking their continuity plans, relocated their staff, failing over their technology and generally being able to maintain their operational efficiency.
In the last 6 months the most obvious case studies have come out of the prolonged elections late last year in which denial of access was one of the most prominent reasons for relocation and invocation of continuity plans.
Sadly, the DusitD2 Riverside attack from last week, has also resulted in a number of companies invoking their BCM plans and operating from our recovery site
What do you consider the biggest challenge for ContinuityEastAfrica
The proper understanding of what Business Continuity means is still a challenge in this immature market in terms of BCM awareness. It's not just about technology, or data centres, it's much more than that.
The move from the original DR (Disaster Recovery) to Holistic Resilience will take some time before the proper understanding is realised and implemented correctly
Where do you see cybersecurity and data security landscape for organizations heading in years to come?
It's here to stay, it's going to become more complex, bigger, more difficult and more intense in the future. This is inevitable due to the increasing reliance we have on technology. All organisations need to look at their overall resilience throughout their business and not just technology we can't see any of these landscapes in isolation, but rather we need to embrace them and understand the complex interdependencies as a single solution to this ever-increasing complex world.
What is the latest news from your company?
Lots of news, we have plans to expand our facility into a much larger recovery site and as part of this process we will also be growing our training and advisory teams too – exciting times ahead
The group has grown into a multinational organisation and CEA is also in the process of expanding these services into all the countries bordering Kenya.
Who should contact you and why?
We have always taken the role of a trusted advisor; our reputation is built on that - companies that are unsure of how to approach their planned (or unplanned) resilience or continuity requirements, should make contact with us. We know how to listen to our clients, give advice and discuss their requirements to ensure a cost-effective solution is built. When developing a BCM strategy for a client, it can often seem very difficult from a client’s perspective, but dealing with a specialist such as CEA, we work through these issues systematically using 30 years of experience and thus ensuring a fit for purpose solution is delivered.
Come and look at our recovery site, have a cup of tea can get to know us so that we can help increase the BCM maturity in East Africa
What are your ambitions moving forward?
I’ve been in this industry for over 18 years now, I’ve worked all over the world, I’m a Fellow of the BCI (the highest recognition we can get in the industry), a director of the African Chapter of the BCI, a certified Lead Implementor and Trainer for ISO 22301 as well as the BCI CBCI Exam and BCI Curriculum – what I’d like to see, are more Kenyans getting this certification, more general awareness and understanding of Resilience and BCM.
There is also a BCM forum in Kenya which all BCM people can join providing a community of likeminded individuals where ideas, solutions and knowledge can be shared. So the good news is that this is happening, the membership and activity in Africa is increasing all the time, I want to see this continuing after I’m gone.
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