Business continuity is imperative for the success of any organisation, especially in a market where customers demand constant availability and where certain IT applications and systems can be as critical as life and death. Downtime is simply unacceptable. Without the correct systems and processes in place, oversights can still occur therefore the organisation is at risk.
While businesses have been backing up their data and mirroring systems for years to prevent data loss and system failure, the traditional means of retrieving data and recovering systems from another location is typically a lengthy process, resulting in hours, if not days, of downtime. Ensuring an organisation remains constantly available regardless of what happens to infrastructure is a challenge that is leading many organisations to consider more modern backup solutions, such as the cloud.
CIOs’ and IT Executives’ concerns and technologies are constantly colliding with misconceptions and outdated information. They embrace the idea of the cloud, yet are still wary of it. There is a common belief that if data is not hosted within the organisation, then it exists beyond the control of the business and is, thus, a security risk. CIOs know that they need better disaster recovery and they understand the importance of data today however enough of the IT budget still may not be allocated to spend on technology to support both.
Yet cloud investment is gradually increasing year on year as CIOs slowly begin to realise the value that the cloud brings to their data recovery and business continuity plan, whether as a standalone technology, or as part of a hybrid solution.
Cloud offers flexible, available backup whenever you need it
When looking at disaster recovery and business continuity in the context of the cloud, it’s about more than having protection in place in case of large scale disasters. The cloud gives organisations the option of having parts of their business exist in various locations, however, all are accessible immediately should they be targeted by the likes of ransomware or suffer a system failure.
The elasticity of the resources available in the cloud means that not everything has to be stored there, sitting cold and unused in case of a disaster and costing a fortune in the process. Cloud gives the advantage of allowing organisations to use it on demand, leveraging only what they need at any given time. They have the flexibility to store and access as much data and resources as they require, at any time, without significant investment in infrastructure, or worrying about purchasing more hardware to cater for growth. They also have the agility to adjust what is important as their priorities change.
A fully automated cloud backup and recovery solution reduces the need for manual input and ensures that a business’s data is always there when needed. The nature of having multiple locations available means that an organisation can recover only what they need, when they need it. An organisation may not need yesterday’s data, however may need to access a previous iteration. The cloud enables this to happen instantly.
As part of a hybrid solution, the cloud also allows organisations to easily and seamlessly move data between their on-premise systems and the cloud as if both are part of the same environment. This gives businesses a single view of their data and systems – vital for proper data management and analysis.
Making cloud backup work for you
One of the main deterrents to adopting the cloud is that it can be a complex endeavour to undertake, particularly when there is more than one environment to consider. The various systems and applications, whether on premise or in the cloud, all look different, behave differently and offer different services. Managing and aligning them can be very tricky. Organisations need to look for ways to simplify their approach to minimise this complexity.
The most common problem with moving to the cloud is that businesses tend to architect their cloud apps based on assumptions made around their current infrastructure. Most enterprises contain a variety of systems gathered over several years. It is important than organisations understand the characteristics and restrictions of existing systems in order to ensure they will function as they are expected to in the cloud. Certain legacy systems, for example, may be too old for cloud compatibility and need to be adapted for the cloud.
CIOs and IT Management should conduct comprehensive portfolio assessments prior to moving to the cloud, ensuring that priority is given to those applications and systems deemed most critical. Critical systems need to always be available and, therefore, need automatic failover. If this is not happening, the business can ensure that they are rewritten to enable automation, or that there is a plan in place for them so that the risk of downtime is reduced.
Perhaps most important of all is that an organisation have a suitable disaster recovery and business continuity strategy in place. Despite Service Level Agreements (SLAs), cloud providers are not responsible for their customer’s data or failover methods. Businesses are responsible for their own data and failover, and need to have the right processes and mechanisms in place to ensure that they do not lose data or suffer downtime.
Having a plan in place to ensure that there is full and proper automation wherever its needed, that that failover is seamless, that management of all data and systems is unified across all platforms, with a single view, and that the relevant systems are current and exactly mirrored, is vital. Without this, errors can still occur and there is still the potential for risk.
By Johan Scheepers, Commvault Systems Engineering Director for MESAT