Exploiting Virtualization and the Cloud to Protect Your Business from Disaster
Disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity are two IT terms that garner a lot of attention. Strip away the hype and fear, and the bottom line is that companies need to make sure they are protected in the event their applications go down, whether due to a natural disaster (e.g., hurricane or tornado), planned downtime (e.g., maintenance) or unplanned downtime (e.g., server outage).
With summer—and storm season—upon us, now is a good time to reexamine your company’s disaster recovery and business continuity strategies from both a business and an IT standpoint. On the business side, it’s important to understand what downtime is costing your company, both in money and manpower. It’s also important to understand the costs involved in disaster recovery and how you can minimize costs while maximizing protection. On the IT side, it’s critical to examine how your applications are protected, how you will recover them should something go wrong, and how much time that recovery process will take. After all, the answers to these questions could determine the success or demise of your company in the event of a disaster.
Much of this discussion must take place within the context of emerging technology trends. Many businesses are virtualizing at least part of their infrastructure or are taking the first steps towards cloud computing. The main driver is to reduce IT costs. Typically, with new technologies there is a lot of hype around how they can solve all your business needs, including DR. The reality, however, is that there is no free lunch. DR plans need to be cost justified, planned, implemented, and regularly tested. So there will be an investment in both money and people. However, virtualization can significantly lower this investment, and cloud DR provides a great way to start using the cloud to reduce your IT costs.
While every CIO knows that disaster and continuity planning should be a priority, it’s not always easy to know where and how to start. To make it simple, let’s discuss two first steps—from both a business and IT perspective—to build a plan that can get you started with protecting your business should the worst happen.
These steps are:
- Determine which business applications are critical
- Exploit virtualization and cloud to support your business continuity plans
Step One: Determine Which Business Applications are Critical
It is important to start with a business-centric view. The key question you should ask is, “What is the damage to my organization if some of my business processes fail?” You can answer that by first ranking which applications are vital to your business.
A good way to start is to consider your overall organization and then list all the main business applications that you might need to protect. For a mid-sized manufacturing business the list could look something like this:
For each application, assign an estimated cost to the business if that process were to fail for one hour during a peak period. The reason to choose peak periods is that first, these times are when your IT systems are under their greatest load; second, it’s important to measure the highest risk to the business. Factors to consider are: lost sales, reputational impact on future sales, lost productivity of personnel, and lost production. The input should be based on real numbers such as peak daily revenues, daily personnel costs per department, and value of goods manufactured per day.