Technology introduces both opportunities and challenges to businesses, prompting IT leaders to constantly evaluate which solutions to implement to keep operations running smoothly.
But as reliance on technology increases, so do the risks associated with it.
Resources are often under pressure, especially when it comes to managing risk and keeping systems secure and online during unforeseen incidents. (Read also: How digital transformation can bring resilience during disruptions†
Unfortunately, business continuity often doesn’t get the attention it deserves as IT teams manage the systems on a daily basis. But it has become more difficult than ever to maintain normal operations during unexpected events, as IT environments are often disparate and highly prone to downtime and data loss. And if you don’t prepare for the worst, it can lead to major financial problems, especially since the average hourly cost of downtime is over $300,000.
This is why businesses need the cloud to scale and adapt their business continuity strategies. Here’s how cloud computing can help maintain operations:
The need for operational flexibility and scalability
Business continuity management relies on agility.
Organizations need to be able to adapt to changes in their respective markets and unexpected disruptions caused by everything from global pandemics to cyber-attacks. (Read also: The cyber-attack pandemic: a look at cybercrime in the COVID-19 era†
Enterprises that still rely heavily on internal networks, data centers and inefficient legacy technology are unlikely to achieve the necessary flexibility. In such an environment, even an hour-long local power or Internet outage can cost millions of unplanned downtime.
There are also physical limitations to be aware of: Limited space is available in each business premises for installing backup servers and network infrastructure. As the amount of data generated by routine business activities grows exponentially, that challenge will only increase. Using cloud-based software streamlines business continuity by enabling seamless backup and disaster recovery, ample redundancies, and virtually unlimited scalability.
For example, consider how this compares to the old way of doing things: when companies would use tape drives to manually back up their data at certain intervals and then have those drives shipped to a secure, remote facility.
The cloud, on the other hand, offers virtually unlimited data storage capabilities, in addition to easily accessible processing power and functionality in the form of cloud-based apps and virtual machines. Rather than relying solely on local physical infrastructure, companies can take a fully software-defined approach to operational continuity. Cloud computing makes that possible by bringing software to the web so that end users can access it from any internet-connected device – a benefit that the work-from-home mandates of the COVID-19 pandemic have made very clear. (Read also: Smart data management in a post-pandemic world†
Eliminating reliance on physical infrastructure gives organizations the flexibility and scalability they need to continue operations in virtually any situation. Employees can work from home if they are unable to go to the office in person. They can access the apps and data they need to do their jobs online, even when your internal network is down. Data loss can be easily remedied by restoring a recent backup from the cloud and so on.
Maximize Uptime with Multi-Cloud
One of the goals of business continuity planning is to maximize the availability of business-critical resources so that customers can enjoy the level of service they expect and employees can do their jobs to the best of their ability.
With cloud-based business continuity, you can continuously and automatically replicate your data systems and recovery efforts. For example, major cloud providers store data in multiple physically and logically isolated locations, with the closest data center typically serving your cloud-hosted apps and data. However, if the usual location experiences a service outage, the service will usually connect to another location with a real-time copy of your data. In most cases, end users don’t even notice the outage. (Read also: Overcoming IT service management Change management challenges with the power of AI†
That said, it’s important not to take business continuity for granted just because you’re using cloud-based software. Even major carriers like Amazon and Microsoft can experience widespread outages — and they’ve had that before. Since redundancy is one of the foundations of business continuity, it is advisable not to rely on a single supplier.
That is one of the reasons why multi-cloud strategies are becoming more and more popular. If you have real-time copies of all your apps and data stored with multiple cloud providers, it’s practically impervious to loss.
When building your cloud business continuity plan, it’s important to set realistic goals before choosing the solutions you need. The two main stats to consider here are:
- Your restore point target (RPO)which refers to how much data you can afford to lose.
- Your recovery time target (RTO)indicating how much time a given system can be offline without causing significant business loss.
Adopting a multi-cloud approach with a consolidated and fully integrated business continuity platform can greatly improve your chances of achieving these goals. (Read also: 10 Myths About Multi-Cloud Data Management†
Outsource risk with shared responsibility
Another undeniable advantage of cloud-based business continuity is that it gives companies the ability to allocate risk in a way that ensures that their own internal networks do not eventually become a single point of failure (SPOF).
Cloud providers are contractually bound by their Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to provide a minimum level of service, part of which is determined by availability. Service availability, or “uptime”, is measured as a percentage and is usually advertised as a number of nines, e.g. “five nines” or “99.999%” (the widely accepted standard of availability for emergency systems) equates to as little as 5.26 minutes of downtime per year.
If a cloud vendor fails to meet their guaranteed terms, their SLAs will usually determine the compensation the customer can expect. This may include financial penalties such as service time credits. A comprehensive SLA will also outline the customer’s responsibilities, so it must be clearly and comprehensively worded and ensure full transparency during service incidents. (Read also: 5 questions companies should ask their cloud provider†
More and more companies are migrating to the cloud to protect their mission-critical services from unplanned downtime and other threats.
Implementing a cloud-enabled integrated business management system, with business continuity ingrained, is an important starting point for reducing risk and improving profitability and brand equity.