Supporting the ‘always-on’ business by keeping valuable data intact

In today’s always-on business, there’s no tolerance for downtime or outages. Ian Wells explains how the right business continuity plan can help to ensure maximum availability

By Guest on 12 November 2014
Supporting the ‘always-on’ business by keeping valuable data intact

This article was first published in the Winter 2014 issue of Speak

The rise of the internet of things, coupled with globalisation, the adoption of cloud services, virtualisation and increasing mobility, has heralded the emergence of the ‘always-on’ business. This is an era where our agile mobile workforce and demanding consumer expectations have created a world where constant access to products and services across time zones is the norm. As we leave behind the nine-to-five workday, non-stop access to data and applications is a critical driver of business success.

To ensure an organisation’s operations runs smoothly, having the right IT tools to support the always-on business is no longer an option but a necessity. Being able to access critical applications – such as e-mails, servers, social networks and transaction portals – from any location, at any time has become an unspoken basic commercial expectation.

Having the right skill set for executing backup and recovery is, therefore, indispensable for a business that never sleeps. In this case, recovery is strategic and the back up of information is tactical. Organisations need to stay operational at all times and strive for verified protection with near continuous data protection and streamlined disaster recovery, particularly in the case of an IT outage.

Creating an effective disaster recovery plan is the first step to ensuring business continuity. Once you have the plan in place, check that it actually works, and continue to carry out routine recovery testing so that you know that all operations are functioning the way they should. Automation can help too. The ability to test disaster recovery in a regular, automated fashion means the business can confidently rely on that plan in the event of an outage.

To keep valuable data intact, organisations should also look to apply the golden 3-2-1 rule. For all-round data protection, organisations should have three copies of data with one in production, on two different media and one stored offsite. This is where cloud-based technology for disaster recovery can help. Not only does the cloud provide the option of having an offsite location to protect data, it also offers an unlimited, elastic storage capacity coupled with a predictable billing model. With cloud integrated storage solutions, organisations are able to execute on-demand disaster recovery and carry out regular testing.

Many organisations have switched to modern data centres in pursuit of greater speed and efficient use of existing resources, through the adoption of cloud-based and virtualised technologies. Yet, in many cases, they are still using legacy IT tools to manage these modern data centres. This has created an availability gap.

The availability gap is characterised by lag issues triggered by data loss, long recovery times, unreliable data protection and a lack of visibility of the IT environment. This gap is further widened by current expectations to be always-on and the deployment of IT as a strategic asset to boost business. For many, the dream bubble of being always-on is often popped by the reality of cost, complexity and missing capabilities.

Deploying the right tools to address the availability gap will ultimately enable organisations to avoid an even greater cost of downtime and boost their long-term business continuity strategy.

In the event of an outage, businesses must be able to get back on their feet with minimal cost and disruption to day-to-day operations. Any amount of downtime, even just a few hours, means financial loss for the company, not to mention a negative impact on reputation both within the organisation and in the public eye. Veeam’s Annual Data Protection Report 2013 found that the average cost per hour of downtime is over US$300,000, factoring in loss of productivity, labour to fix the problem, as well as loss of revenue. With the average outage lasting for around five hours, it’s easy to see why organisations need to be able to recover data almost instantly: to avoid that potential US$1.5M pitfall. According to Gartner, two out of five businesses that suffer a major IT outage will disappear in five years.

Recovery time and point objectives (RTPO) that take hours or days are too costly for a company to bear. An organisation’s aim is to ensure data backups can be executed quickly without disrupting existing infrastructure performance. Customers will also benefit from incredibly fast recovery times, ensuring that data loss in the event of an outage is kept to a minimum so that the potential damage of any downtime is mitigated.

Organisations should be firm on the speed of recovery. An ideal RTPO standard should be less than 15 minutes for all applications without compromising the preferred method of recovery.

In yoga, balance, stability and flexibility are key attributes in striking the perfect position. Likewise, balance lays the foundation for stability in an always-on business. To achieve this, organisations need to balance complete visibility into their virtual environments with ease of use.

While virtualisation enables flexibility, it can create a management nightmare for those who have to bend over backwards to control it and it could even backfire with outages. Being risk aware means engaging in proactive monitoring and alerting of issues ahead of negative operational impact.

To maximise risk mitigation, organisations should always test their backup and recovery system in a production-like test environment. Only with clear visibility and understanding of its virtual realm can businesses leverage data to make informed decisions that drive uptime, planning and growth.

As businesses mature, CIOs are expected to execute IT strategies that help to drive business growth rather than simply support the back-end operations. Ultimately, organisations must implement technologies that correspond with modern and immediate demands, establishing the foundation that creates availability for the modern data centre.

Ian Wells is vice president of North West Europe at Veeam Software

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