Using The Cloud For Better Business Continuity
Planning for your cloud application or website to go down seems like it should be a no brainer. We assume that every business is aptly prepared; in fact most people reading this probably believe theirs is. It is, right? Right? Turns out it only takes one extreme incident to show us that keeping websites and applications online no matter what the circumstance really is an after thought for many organizations. For instance, sites like Gawker, Gizmodo, and Huffington Post all went down during Hurricane Sandy last fall, as did hundreds of other businesses’ critical infrastructure. While I can’t speculate as to what kinds of IT practices these businesses had in place, we can assume their business continuity planning wasn’t as strong as it could have been – despite being in a region of the country that gets hit with hurricanes on an annual basis.
Now it’s one thing for websites to go down, it’s another thing for applications that house critical data – that needs to be accessed on a dime – to suddenly be inaccessible. Depending on the industry, the risks of this inaccessibility can be grave. For instance, the stakes for healthcare, eCommerce platforms and SaaS/PaaS solutions providers are extremely high if data suddenly becomes unavailable.
Think about it – natural and unnatural disasters strike every day, everywhere in the world. We can count on it. Yet businesses still leave their data at risk of being “lost,” if even for a short time. In an era when about everything lives in the cloud, BCP can no longer be left on the back burner. Here are some ways businesses can leverage the cloud for smarter BCP.
Resources on Demand
Businesses used to balk at BCP simply because of the time it took to implement such a plan. Ordering new hardware, provisioning circuits and signing contracts with a colocation provider could literally take months. The cloud removes all of those steps. Organizations can literally spin up a virtualized machine within minutes in another location, resulting in very little to no downtime. The instant spin up and switch down aspect of the cloud is particularly handy when preparing for seasonal events like hurricanes. These tend to hit the coast at about the same time every year and subside a couple of months later. An IT director could replicate his environment a month before the hurricane season starts, stand it up in a region that is untouched by hurricanes (like Arizona), and turn the deployment down a month or two later. If the season is a little prolonged than usual, there is no need, as with a traditional hosting contract, to sign up for another year, when the environment could be used for only a couple of weeks.
Better and more resources for efficient failover means cloud infrastructure is perfect for replicating applications and databases across a multitude of environments and geographically diverse infrastructure. This enablement means enterprises can easily redirect their traffic to any number of failover facilities using DNS management, thus greatly lowering the risk. This amazing agility can make the preplanning and nominal additional cost worthwhile. The geographical diversity of cloud providers is key here. Tornado risk in the mid-west? Move the workload to an east coast cloud node. Hurricane risk on the east coast? Replicate the workload to a cloud node in Arizona. Earthquake risk in California? Re-locate to a node in Texas. None of this is a hassle with cloud infrastructure.
Redundancy no longer costs an arm and a leg
Cost has been a huge factor that prevents businesses of every size from implementing effective business continuity plans. The cloud makes this a moot (or at least much more palatable) point.
Hot / Cold business continuity configuration – As mentioned, when the cloud is used for BC solutions, resources like processors, RAM, and storage allocations can remain practically dormant until the moment the business needs them, at which time, these resources can be scaled up quickly to manage the production load. A cloud business continuity solution can be deployed so quickly that active users (on the website or application) don’t even notice a blip. With cloud, enterprises and SMBs alike can now have BC plans with global infrastructure in place without breaking the budget.
Hot / Hot business continuity configuration – DNS management tools enable IT stakeholders to mirror a production hosting environment, in its entirety, to a secondary location. The geo-location features of DNS can play a role here too, providing a performance boost as requests can be routed via load-balancing to the most local production node. Running two deployments ‘live-live’ where Web servers and possibly even data base servers share the load between the two locations, is a good option for highly transactional businesses, where even a moment of interruption leads to revenue loss.
It’s remarkable how many companies still rely on traditional (dare I say outdated) back up practices such as weekly back up to tape. Cloud can be a game changer for IT, lowering the price of a business continuity solutions, while at the same time providing more businesses better access to robust and protective options quickly.
By Daniel Beazer
Daniel Beazer has an extensive history of research and strategy with hosting and cloud organizations. As director of strategy at FireHost, Daniel Beazer oversees interactions with enterprise and strategic customers. In this role, he identifies pain points that are unique to high-level customers and utilises his significant knowledge of cloud computing and hosting to help them.