Dennis Samuel, area VP, South-east Asia and India, NCR-Teradata Division, says Business continuity processes must ensure business operability and accessibility along with recoverability and performance continuity. Exclusive to domain-b.
A million dollars an hour is what IT system downtime costs American business according to the META group. This is a stunning figure until one considers the degree to which modern businesses rely on IT systems. Much of the value of these systems is derived from the mountains of business intelligence stored in today's sophisticated data warehouses.
Companies that once used their data warehouse only to support strategic business analysis are now using "active" data warehousing to support nearly every core business function.
As such, it is not surprising that when the system is unavailable, companies are at enormous financial risk. Lost revenue, reduced employee productivity, and regulatory penalties can all contribute to direct costs and the reputation of the business.
In that context, a million dollars an hour sounds about right, though it remains a disturbing number and highlights the need for companies to protect their critical business systems. The best solution for this problem is to have two production systems that are both up, operational and available to manage routine workloads. Using this configuration, the second system is also available if the first system becomes unavailable or the system's performance is degraded. This type of configuration is commonly referred to as a "dual system".
Three core challenges of business continuity:
The first challenge is system and data availability. Because the stakes are so high, companies must ensure that when downtime of any kind occurs, integral systems remain operational and data accessible.
The second concern is system recoverability. Can your customers wait for weeks for your business to recover? Will they?
The third concern is performance continuity. Companies must maintain adequate customer service levels during failures. However, at many companies, when part of the system has an outage the performance throughout the rest of the system degrades.
Some potential solutions:
How much weight to give each of these concerns will differ from one company to the next? For example, if a business can withstand an outage of a few days then perhaps a shared system in a recovery center in a remote location is the best solution.
Most businesses that have truly migrated to a single, enterprise data warehouse typically must address all three of the main concerns. In those cases, the partial solutions can now be combined into a single, comprehensive solution: two systems that are both active, yet provide back-up capabilities.
Assessing the needs:
The key to assessing your needs is to understand the cost of downtime and degraded performance to the organisation. Ask yourself:
- How long can your business withstand an outage before revenue or another critical area is affected?
- Do all of your applications affect your core business functions equally? Or are there some clear priorities that you can map and feed into a solution alternative?
- How complex is your computing environment?
- What are the financial constraints you need to work within?
Most companies will want to consider working with a certified, business continuity consultant. The good ones have spent significant time assessing the continuity needs of organisations and bring real experience to bear on what is a relatively new business challenge.
Protect and protect again
Because it lowers costs and facilitates growth and competitive advantage, the evolution to data warehousing is fast becoming a business necessity