It’s the same in the business world but the stakes are higher. Businesses are competing 24/7 on the world stage, vying for market share and mind share. Regardless of the nature of their customers and end users, the type of products and services they provide and their short- and long-term goals, these companies know they have to deliver immediately or risk failure.
With technology integral with so many aspects of businesses’ operations, it’s no surprise that IT system availability, data sovereignty and application performance have become critical success factors. This is the age of the customer, and companies’ success hinge on their ability to meet customer demands on demand. There is no time for down time.
Changes are required in terms of how these companies develop, market, sell, and deliver products and services ─ changes that require the support of IT teams. This in turn means that IT staffs must broaden their agendas beyond IT (infrastructure) to include business technology (BT) — the technologies, systems and processes to win, serve and retain customers.
That can’t happen if IT staffs are spending most of their time working in clichés ─ keeping the lights on and putting out fires. Ensuring that a solid, tested business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) plan is in place helps, but it is not enough. BT resiliency is also essential. Forrester defines BT resiliency as “the ability for business technology to absorb the impact of any unexpected occurrence without disrupting business operations.”*
BT resiliency sounds great, but how do you make it happen? Here are some things to consider:
You cannot afford to have unplanned downtime due to human negligence, configuration disparities between the production and DR environments, or hardware failures. Think active-active, always-on services. (In active-active mode, there are two geographical instances of an application or a single stretched instance, both running production workloads.)
If you haven’t done so, virtualize critical workloads and use replication technologies for workload balancing. Employ agentless tools that can auto-discover targets and array- and hypervisor-based replication technologies to automate failover between virtualized data centers. Virtualizing critical systems allows you to seamlessly migrate between infrastructure in case of failure and, in some cases, even help migrate between sites.
If you haven’t replaced your tape backups with disk-based backups, do it. Then consider moving some of them to the cloud for longer-term retention or remote offices. Make sure you correctly size the network bandwidth, and beware of cloud storage vendors that advertise a low entry price point per gigabyte of storage. Access your data too often or delete it too soon, and they will likely penalize you.
You should also automate and optimize cloud-based data archives and backups by using deduplication features, backup appliances, cloud connectors and gateways for WAN optimization, and local caching to quickly copy to an offsite location.
Back up your public cloud infrastructure. Public clouds can and do fail, and any outage can prevent you from meeting customer demands promptly. Make sure you have workarounds in place to fail over services to another cloud and restore data from backups if it is lost or accidentally deleted.
What it comes down to is that IT staffs must understand the role they play in supporting their companies’ strategic objectives, which ultimately means satisfying customer and end user demands. Traditional BC/DR approaches to minimize downtime and speed up business recovery aren’t enough. The key is to put strategies in place to ensure availability and performance ─ which includes backups and archiving ─ in order to make sure that customers that “want it now” don’t have to wait.
*Source: Forrester Research, Inc., Key I&O Technology Trends To Watch In 2014, Part 2, by Sudhanshu Bhandari, May 14, 2014