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Disruptive influences drive efficiency in business continuity planning

Wed 2 Dec 2015 | Nick Ewing

It may seem incongruous to welcome the fact that the technology underlying business continuity provision is being disrupted, because after all, the whole point of a good BC plan is to mitigate any disruption to business operations.

Nevertheless, the emergence of new virtualised appliances is having a classically disruptive effect on BC planning, providing levels of resilience and speed of recovery at such cost-effective rates that businesses of all sizes can now plan to withstand the sort of events that would hitherto have impaired their operation for days, weeks or even permanently.

“Disruption”, one of the buzz words of the moment, is often misused to the point where it has become synonymous with any product or service considered to have an attractive selling point, if only by those engaged in selling it.

As originally coined, the term “disruptive” refers to a technology that offers a new way of solving an established problem and which by virtue of being either significantly cheaper, easier to use or more widely available than the existing technology replaces it, causing general realignment of the business or industry in which it operates.

Depending on the size and importance of one’s organisation, disaster recovery and business continuity have meant different things to different people. For truly critical operations such as banking or financial trading, BC plans have typically involved massive expenditure on everything from wholesale duplication of servers and storage systems to instantly configurable alternative premises into which staff can be moved immediately to carry on as normal. They also involve detailed plans, frequently rehearsed, for how to deploy such facilities should they be needed.

For many SMEs a BC plan can mean as little as taking regular backups of important data to disk or tape and storing them either in a fire proof safe or off site. Such backup routines are built into the operational efficiency of any well run organisation, usually in the hope that they will never actually be needed.

If and when disaster does strike, the critical factor is the speed with which normal service can be restored. Hitherto, the sort of near instantaneous restoration of systems and business processes that large financial organisations are required to have in place is a luxury that only the largest and wealthiest can afford. Many smaller companies, even those with remote or cloud-based IT facilities operate to service level agreements (SLAs) which require full restoration of systems in a matter of days.

In cases where customers can be tolerant of a business whose operations have been temporarily impaired by an unfortunate event such SLAs are acceptable. But what if a competitor, subjected to a similar misfortune, is able to carry on as if nothing bad has ever happened? How efficient does your operation look then?

By way of example, we have been able to demonstrate that a 2Tbyte system, currently operating under an SLA with a four day recovery window can be recovered to full effectiveness for half the cost in a time scale between 4 and 40mins!

Too good to be true? Doubtless many will want to think so, certainly the providers of traditional business continuity services but also those among their customers who have signed off on such SLAs, sincere in the belief that they were the best and most cost-effective available.

Only they are not, any more. Such high levels of resilience and speed of recovery are now available to a much broader range of organisations, bringing with them the promise of businesses that can function at peak efficiency in the most trying of circumstances.

Thanks to disruption, “24*7 operation” is achievable by organisations of any size, whatever catastrophe may try to disrupt them!


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