Where the business cloud weathers the storm

Mission critical apps need special consideration

skyline with stormy sky and tornado funnel
Thinkstock

Over the past few months, two of the biggest storms in recent history battered cities across the country. One estimate pins the damages at $290 billion, which doesn’t include the decreased or lost productivity that is still to come for offices and businesses across the regions.

It’s impossible to predict everything, including the timing and scope of hurricanes and natural disasters, but ideally businesses prepare for situations just like these. It wasn’t that long ago that disaster recovery consisted largely of the restoration of services and configurations from backup. This was a process that could take hours or even days.

We live in an era where the advantages of cloud and hosting have proven to be critical components to sustaining operations, communications, and recovery efforts for business, residents, and emergency services.

There is little doubt that those organizations affected by these events that hosted their own infrastructure in the geographies that were affected endured significant unfortunate interruptions. Meanwhile, professional hosting and cloud companies in those same geographies kept running for several reasons.

The modern data center is made purposefully for these types of situations—built in facilities designed to withstand disasters, with generators, emergency protocols, redundant communications, redundant (underground and satellite) internet connections, and more. Through each element of a hosted and cloud infrastructure, both best practices and uninterrupted services are the mission of providing for customers.

If you’re concerned about continuity and minimizing the impact of unplanned IT events on business, these storms make it very difficult to justify hosting your own infrastructure any more. 

Mission-critical? Not all costs are equal

Disaster preparedness and recovery only begin the discussion that stewards of IT and the leadership of organizations need to understand when it comes to their mission critical software and systems. It has been proven that a disaster-based outage for those systems is a business-impacting event with far greater cost than any perceived operational costs. The loss of critical data, interruption of IT operations, loss of equipment, loss of communications, potential for injury, or even cybersecurity incidents are risks that any business needs to guard against in general, but especially if it touches their mission-critical systems.

Looking for any glimmer of a silver lining from this past hurricane season, these natural disasters offer an opportunity to reevaluate and update resiliency, backup, and recovery strategies and make the case to include cloud and hosting in the conversation when thinking about the most precious jewels of IT systems.

Think it through

Let’s say you’re ready to have this disaster readiness conversation. You then systematically consider all the ways mission-critical systems can fail. You quickly find that critical databases, DNS, networking, web applications, mobile, email, and other elements are not only fallible, they are likely interdependent. You diligently backup systems, but find that, if you’re using an offsite tape system as your main channel for recovery, you must get ready for extended downtime. Tape recovery is slow, snapshots may not take place frequently enough, recovery isn’t guaranteed, and it may take significant reconfiguration to return to operations once everything is restored. In situations where the power is offline, your on-site generators may only allow for a graceful shutdown until utility services are restored. This can only add to the impact of a greater disaster because you can’t even start to recover until the basics are stabilized. These and other factors mean that recovery can add up to a lot of contiguous hours and sleepless nights while the business breathlessly waits to get portions of functionality back online.

Natural events are not the only threat. Both human and systematic errors can impact a business, taking resources offline thanks to interdependencies, corruption, and cybersecurity events. An average business may not have the adequate resources to detect, contain, and react to an ever-widening range of potential threats.

Cloud answers

This is one of the most compelling benefits of cloud and hosting solutions. The cloud has answers that are built into not only the robustness of data centers themselves but the very nature of the platform that critical business systems run on.

Switching over to a cloud or hosting service offers expanded options during and after a disaster. From backup to redundant infrastructure, to ever-present monitoring, disaster planning, and availability—they are the foundation that hosted services and infrastructure are built on from day one. Data is designed to be safe within a cloud and in many cases, the ability to recover can be as simple as a few clicks. In the right environment, there may not even be a recognized impact to information systems.  The human capital is also something that is easily overlooked, but these companies have the trained 24x7 staff to sustain these disasters for very prolonged periods.

Catastrophic natural events present an opportunity to re-evaluate and (if needed) create a formal disaster recovery plan for every mission-critical app, especially for health care and financial institutions where loss of data mounts to heavy penalties on top of the more obvious business risks.

Starting out, IT professionals need to find out where everything is, evaluate any weaknesses. Appraise existing backups and recovery procedures. Test. Plan on recovery from every angle. Test this too. Script out what personnel will do. Run through this in detail. Make sure people are ready to leave their loved ones behind to take care of the IT infrastructure. Draft communications. Get commitments from people. Validate that every piece works and everyone knows what to do. Then test it again. Calmly and objectively assess your gaps. They will be many. That is where cloud and hosting come in.  

Finally, when it comes to the tools and elements of an infrastructure, the abilities that spring from the spectrum of cloud and hosting-enabled features can help build a better, more resilient, more redundant disaster solution for a fraction of the cost that it can be built internally. Cloud provides assurance and capabilities in disaster situations that no other solution can deliver. Make it a part of your conversation. 

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?