What is Business Continuity?
Business Continuity is the ability to keep vital business operations running in the event of failure, regardless of what caused it. It’s about keeping critical systems working as the rest of the business is coming back to full functionality after a crisis. Can the customer service reps access their CRM applications? Can marketing access their stored graphics? Does HR have access to vital employee information? Can you fill an order?
What are the options?
There are two approaches to business continuity: recovery centric or availability centric.
A recovery centric strategy will, by definition, be disruptive to the business. Recovery centric approaches are applicable to less important applications as business services will stop while recovery takes place. Although the level of disruption will be reduced with a replication/failover solution, it will still not be suitable for delivering an acceptable level of availability for mission-critical applications.
Historically such approaches have depended on clustering technology. Clustering allows several machines to run the same copy of the application which is accessing its data on shared storage. Clusters may consist of multiple physical and/or virtual machines and provide a platform that protects against physical or virtual machine failure. In some situations, it may also address availability for planned operations where individual machines in the cluster may be disconnected, allowing maintenance to take place.
Availability centric solutions typically use redundancy of data and hardware, combined with data replication, in a “shared nothing” approach. While replication solutions share this approach, the difference comes when looking at the impact on the user, and hence the business. High availability solutions will provide proactive application awareness.
Application availability will be monitored through embedded best practice facilities with a degree of self-healing provided, changes in application configuration and data dependencies will be catered for, and automation will be an option to avoid the need for manual intervention. This level of protection will embrace the end-to-end service, not just an individual software component such as Exchange.
The choice of availability strategy will depend on many factors. Taking into account complexity in operation, total cost of ownership, skills available, and the risk of business failure may mean combinations of the above technology are required to address risk.
How to Assess Solutions
When looking at mechanisms to protect applications, any IT decisions need to be based on a firm foundation of business risk. It helps to look at application availability solutions in the context of four pillars of risk:
- Recovery: The definition of Recovery Point is data based; how much data loss is acceptable?
- Scope of Protection: The scope of protection directly affects the level of business disruption that can be tolerated.
- Operational Capability: When failures occur and the pressure is on, are experienced personnel available to be relied upon to take the right action.
- Total Cost of Ownership: What is the true cost of downtime to the business, where cost is not just associated with lost productivity, but also with lost opportunity and reputation?
Learn more about Continuity Engine
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