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Why do I have to think about Business Continuity?

Level 8

You've probably heard about the importance of business continuity and disaster recovery. Today, more businesses have business continuity plans than ever before. With so many businesses looking to secure their future, there are still a few aspects of business continuity that today’s business need to understand. After all, there is more to it than just data backup. Disaster recovery is something that needs to be planned, practiced, and updated regularly, and it’s important to have a management system that helps you predict, monitor, and execute your business continuity plan.

Over the last few years, business continuity has changed how it is perceived within a business. In a previous position, the company I worked for had multiple physical data centers with hardware at both sites with a full failover from one site to the next. But today’s ever-changing, always-on data requirements bring new complications to the business continuity plan. Today, infrastructure and applications can be hosted across multiple platforms, from on-premises to the public cloud. With these disparate environments and multiple management tools, it is key to know what is going on within your business.   

So, let’s look at how some of the software packages in the market can help your business monitor your infrastructure and provide critical insights into your data.

Availability Monitoring

Experience has taught me that a lot of outages can be tracked to network issues. In the majority of cases, these outages could have been avoided. Availability monitoring software provides you a way to help identify and proactively troubleshoot network issues early. I have often blamed the network team for issues with my data center, putting pressure on them to work out what’s wrong, when the issue ended up being related to disk access or performance. With an availability monitoring solution, you can provide a quick response to your teams, helping you troubleshoot the issue before the business or end-user is affected. Availability monitoring tools can work in a standalone fashion to provide quick response for small organizations or for companies looking to provide information about a specific project. A larger organization may want to integrate availability monitoring into a more comprehensive platform.

Interface Monitoring

Sometimes you have to delve deeper into the environment when no real issues show on the network, but you can begin to see actual issues with each individual interface. Take a service provider, for instance. They have large distributed and shared networks with multiple VLANs and dedicated ports for each customer. Not to mention the different types of interfaces: 1Gb, 10Gb, Ethernet, all the way through to high-speed fiber. Now, I'm no expert when it comes to networks, so I would need help to start to decipher the issues. Using SNMP to collect the interface stats within the environment, and ICMP packet reports to collect data (such as packet loss, round-trip times, etc.), helps the network administrator identify application performance issues in the network quickly.

Virtualization Manager 

This is the tool that I find really cool. When I was an IT Manager, every day was a challenge, especially when we started introducing larger applications. But this was eight years ago, long before I knew about the category of virtualization management. Back then, if I had a piece of software that could proactively recommend what I needed to do with my VMs, I would have slept a lot easier. I will more time going over the benefits of virtualization management software in the future because it is a large and very detailed category, but today I want to highlight the features that I think can help your business continuity plan, including Predictive Recommendations and Active Virtualization Alerts.

Predictive Recommendations proactively monitors and calculates active and historical data to help you prevent and fix performance issues. You can review each recommendation and choose to act now or schedule for later time and date. This gives you choice and control over your environment. You can also use VMAN to help prevent future issues, by implementing resource settings and plans that can actioned if any performance thresholds are breeched. Now, what's key for me is not only the value that’s provided by saving time and resources but also the uptime that can be achieved by making sure the VMs are in the right place.

In my next article, we will look at providing insight into your infrastructure to meet the compliancy challenges we are seeing today.

14 Comments
rschroeder
Level 21

I think you missed some easy marks to hit.

  1. "Why do I have to think about Business Continuity?"  Without trying to seem flippant, your interest in Business Continuity is having a job there tomorrow.  If the network or your companies services fail, how will it be around tomorrow to employ you?
  2. Availability Monitoring.  It proves you're meeting your Service Level Agreements, that your contracts are correctly served.  It also shows your upstream providers are serving what you've purchased.
  3. Interface Monitoring:  Track those errors & Discards.  Develop trend analyses for bandwidth utilization and predict the future!
mcarlton4
Level 8

Thank you for your comments, I agree with your comments and appreciate the feedback.

petergwilson
Level 14

It all seems to be common sense to me but I've worked at too many places where management won't spend the money on monitoring then rant and rave when things go down.  They never seem to stay late when there are issues though.  It's just us techies, who have asked for monitoring for years, who stay to sort it all out.  71 hours straight on site was my longest so far.  The overtime bill would have paid for the software.

vinay.by
Level 16

tallyrich
Level 15

So many think of disaster recovery and business continuity as the same, or very similar.

Disaster recovery is the ability to get back to functioning after a disaster, intrusion, failure, etc.

Business continuity is the ability to function as a business during and right after that disaster, intrusion, failure, etc.

I've heard a lot of talk about EMP pulses wiping out business. Without Business continuity an EMP would totally destroy most businesses. We rely on our digital infrastructure - i feel too much - and without it many could not function.

I work in a hospital environment. The staff has to have a plan B for downtimes, disasters, etc. Can you imagine heading to the ER with an Ax to the head and hearing - "I'm sorry, you'll have to come back later, our computers are off line." Why should any other business be any different. If you run a small store or factory can you still keep the doors open if disaster strikes?

ecklerwr1
Level 19

They do often go together for sure... you often see BC/DR.

bobmarley
Level 15

Make sure your Disaster Recovery 'war room' has backup power, HVAC, and data equipment on ups/generator or it may be very uncomfortable, dark, and using a pen and paper.....

I once toured an executive board room that they were planning DR for, but in a power outage they had no lights, hvac, network, etc...

mcam
Level 14

the whole DR thing is much too easy to treat as a technical hurdle, adding BC moves it much more to the business to decide exactly what is business critical.

All too often you see suggestions that cloud fixes all the DR issues - that is the IT department talking not the business.

gfsutherland
Level 14

DR/BC are really inseparable. Well beyond the technical aspects of system and network restoration, it means is your company alive and able to service it's customers. Too often I think we IT folks figure that when the technical stuff is done we can wash our hands of the other. We can't ... It's all about the business!

Been through some exercises and one REAL disaster... the business piece hits home when it's for real!

tinmann0715
Level 16

The primary reason that more companies have BC?DR Plans is because the technology required to have one is much easier to manage and much more affordable than 20-30 years ago. The unfortunate events of 9/11 didn't hurt motivate companies either. After that it all came down to process and business rules. That's where people like me come in.  :-)

michael.kent
Level 13

We consider DR and BC together but they are quite different.

Quite often the DR and BC are considered for the Data centre but forgotten for the office. I've seen a big lack of businesses consider these as an IT only issue.

mtgilmore1
Level 13

Like PB and J.....

shuckyshark
Level 13

I agree...I've been in a situation where senior execs are pointing the finger saying - why can't we serve our customers? why are your systems down? to which i smile, walk over to a computer, and demonstrate that the COMPANY'S systems (not just my systems) are actually working and are now running from our DR site - I then mention that our Company doesn't have a business continuity process to handle XYZ emergency.

the following week, I got assigned on a new Business Continuity and Risk Mitigation Team...<sigh>

:-)

byrona
Level 21

We are as service provider and the Virtualization monitoring is really critical as we host many clients on our virtualization platforms.  Simple things such as a snapshot that somebody forgot to delete can have huge performance impacts; virtualization monitoring provides great insights into these types of issues.