By Kevin Leahy, Data Center Practice Director at Aspire Technology Partners
There is no shortage of things we can point to that have changed as a result of the pandemic, some of which we hope to never revisit. Others will be preserved as the new normal. For businesses, the focus on business continuity will forever replace traditional disaster recovery planning.
Of course, that does not mean that all elements included in a disaster recovery plan, or, in fact, any of them, can be discarded. Rather, the elements are all needed, although recent history shows they desperately needed updating.
Business Continuity Then and Now
The shift to a focus on business continuity brings the highlight on some core elements of the business that were overlooked, or rather assumed to be ok, or would be back to normal soon enough to not need planning.
In the past, you focused on two primary areas: first, the technology availability, and the ability of your team to get to where the technology was; the second was natural disasters (storms, earthquakes, and other catastrophic events) and how to make your business planning impervious to those disasters. Depending on where the business and its customers resided, it was possible to mathematically conclude the risk to the business if data centers were x distance apart.
However, recent history taught us all the gaps in that planning: Access to workers and their health changed the discussion versus can we get them to a desk in a DR facility. Then, you were faced with questions like – How will we interact with our customers? will they come to us or be remote? How will their needs have changed and, therefore, how will the demand for goods and services change? And what will the supply chain for those goods and services look like? How will the business deliver all of that?
Focus on the Emerging Foresight
It is easy to say all of this, partially in hindsight; but the more important conversation is the emerging foresight as we learn together the new best practices.
- Put the focus on the business and its customers and employees, not technology. Sounds simple but we have all learned how many assumptions were no longer valid.
- Revisit your business impact analysis. Our clients find when they do, their priorities have changed dramatically. Applications and services that were low priority before may now be the highest priority. For example, telemedicine, which was a small percentage of overall healthcare delivery, is now the largest majority and the most critical service to have available; or, for supermarkets, online ordering may be the most critical service where before most customers did not know it was even available.
- With a new view of priorities, what does it need for that service to be available? Is it just getting a server up and running again like the good old days? Sadly, no. It means looking at every element of that business service. Look at where your consumers are and how they will access your goods and services. Will it be online and delivered? Online to the curbside? In store-pick up? Via telehealth or in a medical facility? Managing and controlling access to you from parking, right down to the building, need to be thought-out carefully. These may involve sensors in building or sending barcodes to smartphones.
- Consider the supply chain for your goods or services. Manufacturers understand the concept well but always assumed in disasters that, for the most part, the disaster impact was contained to a region and usually within a short timeframe. For services business, it was usually assumed that the impact is limited to a data center loss of access to a cloud service. What we find is that what composes the supply chain has changed drastically and needs to be revisited. Single element restores are not enough and manual methods no longer work. Have processes been automated and can what has not been automated be done remotely?
- It always comes down to the data. Do you have it? Who has access? Where is it and how will you get it to where it needs to be to make critical decisions during an extended business recovery?
- Ensure your workers have access. It seemed every year for the last decade was going to be the year for VDI. No one planned it, but that year arrived. Every client I talk to is either considering or expanding VDI. Many are reconfiguring their VDI infrastructure for high availability or moving to a hybrid VDI model using cloud-based options to improve scale and availability.
While it may seem daunting, the good news is, with a good view of what the business priorities are, the availability options at our disposal today allows businesses to plan for real business availability without the high costs of the traditional physical data center disaster recovery plans.
Aspire Technology Partners can help you deliver the IT tools you need to ensure great user experience (at lowest cost) now and through recovery and growth. To learn more about business application solutions, call us at 732-847-9600. To learn more about Aspire, visit AspireTransforms.com.
Kevin Leahy is Aspire’s Data Center Practice Director. Kevin has 25+ years of experience working in the information technology and services industry. Kevin is a strong business and technical leader. His robust experience within the Data Center realm is paramount and he has a proven record of driving sales. At Aspire, he sets the strategic vision for the Data Center practice, focusing on secure data for Aspire’s clients while addressing key customer challenges around application management, analytics, data center automation and optimization, and application speed and agility.