Availability is key, but are you managing the risks as well?

CIOs and IT professionals are under greater pressure than ever to deliver reliable solutions to facilitate 24/7 access to data and services. According to Veeam’s Data Center Availability Report 2014, enterprises encounter application downtime 13 times annually, costing up to $2.3 million in lost revenue and up to $7.9 million of lost application data.

In this quest for availability in an ‘Always-On’ era the question is “Are businesses managing the inherent risk of introducing new solutions such as cloud and virtualisation – be it a security risk or the need to conform to standard certifications to ensure reliability.

The good news is, that if implemented correctly, an availability solution can actually reduce the risk profile in data centres. An effective solution is to harness virtualisation technologies which can enable companies to be more flexible and automate processes to ensure data is protected in an effective manner. A key advantage is the ability to have verified protection – so when you do need to restore from a backup or are replicating a drive you know you won’t be losing any data. This even extends to reducing the risks of upgrading or patching applications or operating systems. Virtualised systems allow you to carry out tests on environments that are hours or even minutes old compared to the production environment. As such you are ensuring that the test scenario is accurate and you are less likely to run into problems when executing the upgrade or patch – thus significantly reducing the risk.

One stumbling block that is still frequently encountered by CIOs and IT professionals is that C-suite executives aren’t aware that investing in modern data centre solutions is vital in order to ensure availability in the future. As companies rely more heavily on remote working and systems being ‘Always-On,’ these key stakeholders need to embrace risk management - they must leverage their data in order to be prepared for what tomorrow may bring. Leveraging data by way of backup or replication technology is a great way to ensure critical changes to data centres can be implemented with confidence with no risk to the availability of systems.

The use of mobile technology also needs to be managed as it can bring significant additional risk for companies. Thankfully, as a result of advances in mobile device management technologies such as those implemented by major handset manufacturers, organisations are able to manage the risk of sensitive data on these devices very successfully. Company policies (and the ability of IT departments to implement them) which enforce the use of passwords and encryption means that data is safe if the device falls into the wrong hands. Additionally, backup and replication products mean that companies also have the ability to restore the data to new devices should they be forced to remotely wipe the data. That being said, there is higher risk when it comes to laptops and desktops which are more difficult to wipe remotely. Ensuring that data also lives in the data centre should be an important strategy. A layered approach that includes technologies such as offline files, policies, redirection and endpoint backup needs to be implemented to ensure no data loss.

As companies decide whether it’s time to leverage cloud technologies, the industry is continuing to evolve with more and more cloud products that are becoming relevant to a lot of different organisations. Service provider offerings can already take availability to the next level – such as using hosted backups or disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS). These technologies can already satisfy the needs of most companies but these organisations should also be preparing themselves for hybrid cloud. This is a technology which is already available but is still evolving and thus isn’t being widely implemented. Once the technology matures it will be something many organisations should take advantage of as it offers a higher level of redundancy which can help to reduce the risk of data loss.

As companies become aware of the need to provide Always-On access to their systems, ensuring that applications and data are always available, they must do so whilst managing the associated risk. This means that it will be vital to implement technologies such as virtualisation which are able to reduce the risk as well as simultaneously giving IT departments more control and flexibility of applications and data. Being up to date with the latest products available and keeping C-suite executives aware of the need to implement these will help IT professionals to continue to meet the needs of current and future technologies.

Rick Vanover, Senior Product Strategy Manager, Veeam Software

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