How to meet the CIO’s availability challenge in four steps

How to meet the CIO’s availability challenge in four steps

The single biggest challenge businesses face is how to provide availability that meets user demand without breaking the bank, notes Don Williams of Veeam. He lists four steps to help CIOs can consider as they manage this challenge.

As businesses mature, expectations of CIOs change. It is expected that CIOs will execute IT strategies that help to drive business growth rather than simply support the back-end operations. Organisations must implement technologies that correspond with modern demands.

As everyday objects are developed to have network connectivity, globalisation increases, more businesses adopt cloud services and virtualisation and mobility rapidly increases, the era of the ‘Always-on Business’ emerges, says Don Williams, vice president, ANZ at Veeam.

“This is an era where our agile mobile workforce and changing consumer demands have created a world where constant access to products and services across time zones is not only expected but demanded,” he states.

There are numerous challenges for IT in supporting the requirements of the Always-on Business. There is a basic commercial expectation that businesses will be able to access critical applications - such as emails, servers, social networks and transaction portals - from any location through any device, at any time. Simultaneously, IT is tasked with helping drive the business without costing an organisation a packet.

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 to stay ahead of the competition.

Williams says the single biggest challenge businesses face is how to provide availability that meets user demand without breaking the bank.

“As data volumes explode, caused by the rise of the Internet of Things, existing infrastructure will prove insufficient for increasingly demanding users. The expectation from users for businesses to be always-on will put IT under pressure to deliver those services seamlessly and uninterrupted,” he states.

Related: Rethinking the worst case: How have business continuity strategies evolved in the new technology landscape of cloud and virtualisation?

He lists the following E-A-S-Y steps to create availability and help to mitigate this challenge:

E – Everything is ‘always-on’

A business that is always-on needs the right skill set for executing backup and recovery. Recovery is strategic and the backup of information is tactical with these types of operations. Organisations need to stay always-on and strive for both verified protection with near continuous data protection and streamlined disaster recovery. This is particularly true in the case of an IT outage. Natural disasters, be they minor or major, can cause extended downtime and result in data loss, which gravely jeopardises a business’s bottom-line.

Read more: Gartner: Are security analytics key to breach detection - or just hype?

Veeam’s annual Data Centre Availability Report 2014 notes that application failure costs enterprises more than $2 million a year in lost revenue, productivity, opportunities and data irretrievably lost through backups failing to recover.

He recommends organisations apply the 3-2-1 golden rule to keep valuable data intact. For all-round data protection, organisations should have 3 copies of data with one in production, on 2 different media and 1 stored offsite.

Without regularly testing recovery, backup is a waste of time and resources. Plans have to be completed with routine recovery testing that ensures all operations are functioning the way they should. It also is critical for every employee in the business to know what to do in the event of a natural disaster. By deploying the appropriate IT tools designed specifically for the purpose of data protection, the high cost involved can be greatly reduced.

A – 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. Many organisations are modernising their modern datacentres in pursuit of greater speed and efficient use of existing resources, through the adoption of cloud-based and virtualised technologies. Unfortunately, in many cases, legacy IT tools are still existent in managing the modern datacentre, creating an availability gap.

The availability gap is further widened by current expectations to be always-on and the deployment of IT as a strategic asset to boost business. Always-on businesses have to face the reality of cost, complexity and missing capabilities. Deploying the right tools to address the availability gap will ultimately enable organisations to avoid the even greater cost of downtime which will boost their long-term business continuity strategy.

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The expectation from users for businesses to be always-on will put IT under pressure to deliver those services seamlessly and uninterrupted.

Don Williams, Veeam

S – Speed of backup and data recovery

Most businesses today have little patience for an outage. Any amount of downtime, even just a few hours, means a financial loss for the company. It also means a negative impact on reputation both within the organisation and in the public eye.

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

Read more: Time to shift to ‘analytics of things’

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.

Y – Yoga principle

Balance, stability and flexibility are key attributes in striking the perfect pose in yoga. In the same way, balance lays the foundation for stability in an always-on business. It’s important that organisations balance complete visibility into their virtual environments with ease of use. Even though virtualisation enables flexibility, it can create enormous difficulties with management for those who have to control it. It can even backfire with outages.

By being risk aware, an organisation should engage in proactive monitoring and alerting of issues ahead of negative operational impact. Beyond this, organisations should always test their backup and recovery system in a production-like test environment. With clear visibility and understanding of its virtual realm, businesses can leverage data to make informed decisions that drive uptime, planning and growth.

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