Maximising business continuity for the always-on organisation

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Imagine if Facebook went down for five minutes.

Apart from the fact that nefarious firms wouldn’t be able to steal your data for a good 300 seconds, people would freak out. Consumers today expect 24/7/365 access to apps and websites for online banking, social hookups, weather forecasts, train timetables and more. This compulsive reliance is rewriting the rules for business continuity, giving rise to the ‘always-on’ organisation.

It doesn’t matter if yours is a customer-facing business or not, the ability to access records and data around-the-clock is imperative in this new era of expectations.

As an example of this, have a think about tertiary institutions. They need to provide faculty members, students, researchers and admin staff with access to systems and data day and night (hands up who can remember pulling all-nighters as a student?). The implications of their systems going down or their data being compromised are huge.

Kings College in London is a shining example of what can go wrong. In October 2016, the institution experienced a huge outage in its system hardware – which caused catastrophic data loss, including everything from payroll to university research data. The debacle was exacerbated by the fact that the IT team failed to adequately back-up all this data. According to The Register, “tape backups failed regularly and some folders were not backed up properly for several months.”

No matter what industry you’re in, when it comes to business continuity, a failure to back-up files and folders is serious negligence on a grand scale. And it hurts the back pocket, too. The 2017 Veeam Availability Report found that the average hourly cost of downtime for business-critical applications is $108,000; for non-business-critical applications it’s $48,000. These are costs you could avoid by putting a solid business continuity plan in place.

How to build business continuity into your IT plan

Business continuity – the ideal state in which critical business apps keep on working during a disaster, cyberattack or outage – is the goal of every ‘always on’ organisation. To reach this ideal state, you need to implement a business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) plan.

Question is, how? I’ve written about closing the availability gap before – and will continue to write about it until more organisations are saving time, money and reputations by having adequate business continuity systems in place. Without repeating myself too much, here are the key steps you need to maximise business continuity:

Step 1. Invest in the right tools.

Technology like the Veeam Availability Suite is geared for solving business continuity challenges. While you could potentially recover data manually, what’s the point of doing it the hard way when there’s a fast, easy and error-free way of doing it with a tool like Veeam?

Step 2. Design an ‘always-on’ system.

In this article, I look at how the 3-2-1-1-0 rule applies in disaster recovery, which is all about capturing multiple copies of your data and validating the replica and backups are consistent. You should also look at running your systems from multiple sites – for example, cluster the computer that provides email across two sites so that if one site is experiencing an outage, your employees can still access email from the other site.

Step 3. Test the system, and test again.

With the tools in place, you need to test them frequently to make sure they remain up to the task of recovering data. Put the system through its paces again and again to validate that you can recover data within acceptable timeframes.

Step 4. Create clear policies and procedures.

Your team needs to know exactly who is responsible for what when faced with a disaster; each person needs to know what their specific responsibilities are in the case of a fail-over. For example, who is responsible for pushing the big red button?

Your reputation is on the line

While your organisation might be able to get away with having an unscheduled outage every now and then, many organisations can’t afford even the slightest hiccup concerning access to data and services provided by IT systems. Competition is getting tougher and tougher as businesses compete on a global level, losing the ability to process transactions for a few hours could result in losing significant business.

Large outages will inevitably result in damages not only to your organisations reputation but to your own as well. Could you afford to face the backlash of frustrated customers and employees if they can’t access the data and apps they rely on? Perhaps not, which is why business continuity is such an important component of any IT strategy in today’s ‘always on’ way of working.

To learn more about business continuity, Veeam and how it could work within your organisation, get in touch today.

Tags: Security, Disaster Recovery, Data Centre Backup, Veeam, Daily Backups, Business Continuity


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