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Business continuity keeps things going

Because no business means no activity, no customers and no revenue, business continuity is essential to keep all those things going, even in the face of interruption or disaster.

By Compute Experts guest blogger Ed Tittel, technology writer/consultant

Business-Continuity-SMB.pngGenerally speaking, business continuity speaks to the tools, technology, practices, and procedures and data that can (and sometimes must) be put to work to keep business IT operations going, even in the face of outages or interruptions, including disasters.

Business continuity (often abbreviated BC) usually goes hand-in-hand with disaster recovery (often abbreviated DR; together BC/DR) to plan for and deal with business interruptions and outages, and to restore access to IT applications, services, and data as quickly as possible should anything happen.

Pieces and parts of business contuinity & disaster recovery

Taken together, BC/DR usually incorporates a variety of tools, technologies, platforms, and practices, including:

  • Backup and Recovery: Based on specific file or image capture software that can run even when applications or services are busy, backup and recovery makes sure that key files and data (and working system images) remain available even if entire locations or networks go down or become inaccessible.
  • Archiving: One-of-a-kind copies of data preserved for future analysis, compliance, or disaster recovery.
  • Disaster Recovery: A procedure for bringing up an organization’s interoperable IT infrastructure in a different location to respond to failure, outage, or a natural or man-made disaster.
  • Data Security: A variety of mechanisms and technologies to prevent unwanted access to or disclosure of organizational data (breach, exfiltration, and so forth) based on encryption, access controls, monitoring and auditing.
  • Compliance and Governance: Employs various technical and procedure means to establish, enact, and monitor policy regarding access to systems and data—especially data related to personal identity, privacy, finances, credit, and so forth.

All of these elements play a role in defining and enacting plans for business continuity and disaster recovery. Those plans themselves are vital, and are described in the next section.

Planning for BC/DR

Whenever BC or DR is called for, businesses will usually invoke a formal plan of action that has been carefully defined and occasionally practiced (to make sure it works as intended). In smaller organizations, this might involve two or three designated staff who take charge of coordinating the response, much as fire marshals on the scene tell individual teams and companies what to do to put the fire out.

In larger organizations, with more resources, a “disaster declaration” or “recovery call” is made, and a response team is brought in to put the plan into action. Once that plan gets underway, the responsible parties work through its requirements, step-by-step, to restore the organization’s IT infrastructure to working condition, including providing access to applications, services, and data needed to make them run.

Business continuity works much like DR. Both are plan-driven, and both get invoked when some kind of disruption may threaten (but not actually knock out) an organization’s IT infrastructure. Instead of describing how to bring up and run an alternate IT infrastructure, then, a BC plane more generally describes how to keep things running when possible disruptions appear.

Two key metrics drive BC and DR. Recovery time objectives (RTOs) describe how long a system, service, or application may remain unavailable without causing loss or harm to an organization. RTO is not just a time interval, it also accounts for the steps IT staff must take to make an application and its data accessible and usable. Short RTOs require functional redundancy and failover capabilities (more expensive); a four-hour RTO allows enough time for bare-metal, on-premises recovery. Recovery point objectives (RPOs) measure maximum sustainable data loss, usually expressed as a time interval. The most recent backup or snapshot should never exceed this value; typical intervals are four to eight hours.

RPOs and RTOs are set on a per-application or per-service basis, which requires working with business stakeholders to choose optimal tradeoffs between cost and potential losses. HPE PointNext Services is happy to work with SMBs to help them make good tradeoffs for BC/DR. The various costs involved—time, money, opportunity, and more—and complexity/capability of recovery options implemented depend on the value of the data and applications they cover. They also embrace a range of storage technologies, each with its own RTO/RPO characteristics.

Using BC/DR technology to protect your SMB

The shorter that RTO and RPO intervals are set, the more it will cost an organization to work within their time limits. This explains how flash storage becomes a valid choice when intervals are short but data volumes are more limited. Cloud storage, on the other hand, offers nearly unlimited capacity but involves longer recovery times because of latency and transfer times. At the bottom of the storage hierarchy tape offers nearly unlimited capacity and high security, but extremely long transfer times during restore/recopy operations.

Figure 1 shows how business continuity fits into the overall IT planning context, with special emphasis on security management and disaster recovery. Within the framework depicted, DR is a subset of security management, which itself falls under the general heading of business continuity planning, along with risk management, data assessment, cross-team/department coordination, and plan communication to all involved parties. 

Figure 1: Business continuity embraces a slew of security and governance concerns, including security management of which disaster recovery is just a small part.Figure 1: Business continuity embraces a slew of security and governance concerns, including security management of which disaster recovery is just a small part.

SMB customers can mix and match among HPE’s product portfolio to put a proper BR/DC plan to work, including supporting platforms, tools, and technologies. These include flash-based storage, modular smart arrays (MSAs), deduplicated storage, cloud storage, and even tape storage systems. Even hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) can play an important role, when assets to be protected already run within an HCI environment. Options are many, and HPE will work with SMBs to help them pick the right ones.

Visit HPE’s Business Continuity and Data Protection Solutions pages to see the full range of BC/DR and other related solutions available to SMBs. Click for this complete tech brief. HPE stands ready to help SMBs formulate, implement, and enact BC/DR as and when it might be needed.


Meet our Compute Experts guest blogger Ed Tittel, technology writer/consultant

Ed Tittel.jpg

For over 30 years, Ed Tittel has worked in and around IT as a developer, trainer, technical evangelist and manager. The author of over 100 books, he’s written on topics that include networking, security, markup languages, and cloud computing. For more info, please visit edtittel.com.

 

 


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