Hindsight is 2020

Business and technology

Learn from the past to embrace the future. Take lessons learned  to drive positive insights into your Business. Ensure the Engine room of your company, the very ERP systems your Business needs to drive revenue, remain resilient to deliver positive outcomes

Examine JUST ONE THING in the Data Center. Be impactful in how you deliver your Technology experience to your Business users.  Business and technology together drive positive organizational outcomes. Consider these absolute MUSTS to transform your Data Center from aging monolithic architecture, flawed data protection, and un-secure applications.  When data is lost, held RANSOM, or simply unavailable, it negatively affects (and potentially halts) all desired business outcomes.

Systems of record that previously functioned in the background, today include self-service, real-time connections, with endless application touch points spanning across numerous hybrid clouds.  In our “always-connected” world, the flow of information and commerce means around the clock access to “data” because our business never sleeps.  Consumer appetite for self-service and business systems availability means IT must deliver game-changing commercial-ready ERP applications, transactional throughput, analytics, and a variety of secured mobile and social capabilities.

IT must think in terms of resilience, operational continuity, and data protection to support today’s digital transformation.  Energize your IT and Data Center operations back into shape to keep pace with the speed and needs of today’s economic climate.

End your Bad Habits – Perform a Data Center Readiness Assessment

The value of successfully implementing architecture and application management extends far beyond the walls of your DC. Your business relies on availability, scalability, and technology currency to maximize the value of your infrastructure investment.  IT expertise demands your ability to maximize your ROI, keep expenditures predictable, lifecycle management, and free up valuable IT resources needed to focus on more strategic organizational initiatives.

The objective of a readiness assessment is to formally review your current infrastructure reference architecture and availability state for the entire Data Center.  This includes assessing every server and logical partition supporting the current business application environments. Re-discover and document your applications, server platforms, network and storage platforms in the Data Center.

Never assume that all systems are properly managed and conform to industry compliance standards. The assessment will identify exposures and current practices deployed within your server infrastructure.  Your goal is to develop systems availability, scale, automation, messaging, and data protection recommendations per application.  This must also include critical applications that span across several servers and/or partitions and their underlying technology foundation.

Performing a readiness assessment is also Disaster Prevention.  In other words, money well spent.  Your primary responsibility is to protect your corporate data, your business’ greatest asset. With so many interdependencies within the data center, IT should examine all production workloads, potential single points of failure, and associated risk factors.  Companies with mission-critical data centers and a low tolerance for downtime must maintain precise system availability and disaster recovery prevention measures. This means that COMPLETE data protection, resiliency and uptime strategies when fully implemented and tested will provide you the availability your business demands.

Conduct a workshop with your IT staff to determine the technical readiness of the servers supporting your business today.  The objectives are oriented toward gaining an understanding of the current operating environment,  review everything that is in place today and what is required to run your business efficiently,  and be able to deliver availability and resiliency.

The workshop should include all production workload servers, storage, network, server and network dependencies, application profile, flow of information between applications, monitoring, security, operational and recovery procedures, backup/replication strategy and data center facilities.

Assessment of your Data Center Capabilities:

  • Review On-premise infrastructure environment
  • Gap Analysis for DC
  • Technology refresh, observe compliance and optimize spend
  • Critical Server Definition – Mapping of servers, dependencies & interfaces
  • Overview current backup, logical/hardware replication and recovery model
  • Create data loss/exposure models
  • Technical analysis of Network (WAN/LAN) topology
  • Technical analysis of SAN, and virtual/physical compute environment
  • System, application and data – COMPLIANCE VALUE
  • Design for IT Resiliency vs Disaster Recovery – BUSINESS VALUE
  • Monitoring and centric message management – UPTIME VALUE
  • Examine Hybrid, Internal and External cloud options.

During your assessment, you must rationalize your organization’s ability to utilize your reference architecture to achieve new business milestones in availability security, and control while releasing the burden of everyday IT challenges.  Findings from your assessment will provide a basis for an acceptable level of risk, technology or configuration improvements, remediation activities, and project scope, which equates to positive impact to the business.

Healthy Disaster Recovery Plan – Healthy Business

Book a meeting with your Disaster Recovery Plan. Yes, I am serious!  Create a calendar entry right now, book a meeting room, schedule the team, and make it happen.  We all know that having a fully tested Disaster Recovery solution is vital to the health and continued success of your business.  How often should IT perform a health check of their DR Plan?   It should be a minimum of twice a year, or with every major infrastructure deployment or application upgrade. Out of sight, out of mind is not a working solution!

Many of you have realized the benefits of virtualization, yet you may not have been able to step back and analyze how to maintain your disaster recovery capabilities with a cloud-based technology foundation.  Today’s dynamic business environments are based on a seamless flow of information. Organizations increasingly rely on technology to conduct business to sustain profitability.  Management views technology as a necessary business enabler.

Never ignore the truth about your level of DR readiness.  Disaster Recovery is your last line of defense against severe business impact regardless of the circumstances.  Does your company have a comprehensive DR solution that would allow your business to function in the event of a disaster? Can you demonstrate repeatable and timely recovery of your business?  Will the DR Plan work as written or does it require super-HUMAN intervention.  Remember the 3C’s in DR Planning Methodology:   Keep your plan Current, Keep your plan Complete, and Keep your plan Comprehensive.

Ensure your message clearly describes business outcomes — not IT outcomes. Business folks do not speak the language of IT.  Start thinking in terms of business interruptions and financial impact of Systems Availability.  Yes, IT must plan for the worst, but they also must plan for the more likely scenarios delivering IT Resiliency.   IT and Management must both work on  keeping your business healthy regardless of any downtime event.

 

Legacy Data Protection Methods fall short

Traditional backups have been an essential part of IT infrastructure since its inception and that will never change. Data protection is not just Disaster Recovery. Yes, data protection still means being prepared for that “500 year flood“ that threatens to drown your data center!  The risk with backups lies with the accompanying latency between when the data was protected (The nightly backup) and the time when the system loss occurs. Coupled with ever-increasing restore times driven by data growth, and the need for off-site data retention for continuity compliance, businesses cannot afford permanent unrecoverable data loss attributable to daily backups. Tape backup and VTL solutions are insufficient for real-time transaction-based operations driven by our systems of record. Given the rapid growth and volume of corporate data, it is increasingly critical for stakeholders to protect this data—the most valuable business asset. Downtime impacts loss of daily transactions and the very integrity of your databases and the ERP applications that use them.  Per IT industry research, the average cost of data center downtime across all enterprises is between $300,000 to $500,000 (US) for every hour of lost productivity.  This a DIRECT impact to corporate profitability.

Protecting the Business

IT resilience goes far beyond the boundaries traditionally covered by data protection.  IT resilience includes both the traditional data protection solution which is reactive, and  eliminates planned downtime, which is proactive. In a world where security breaches and ransomware are the new threat in our digital environments, the scope of IT resilience is much broader than just equipment failures or FEMA related events.

IT resilience strategy includes a holistic approach to ensuring that business systems are always available and protected from outages, both planned and unplanned. There is a significant business need for flexible and cost-effective technology foundation deployed as Continuous Data Protection (CDP) and bundled with Managed Disaster Recovery Services to deliver IT resiliency otherwise unavailable.  Instead of restoring from last night’s backup, you can recover to the journal checkpoint minutes before the failure you’re responding to. CDP utilizes journaling technology to keep track of all transactions that have taken place. This technology significantly reduces the period of potential data loss (the RPO), and thus the potential financial impact or reputational cost of failure.  The use of journaling technology to keep track of changes provides multiple benefits over traditional snapshot protection and tape backup technologies.  Journaling is a powerful tool in developing IT resilience, by combining it with orchestration capabilities from Managed Services that then allow for numerous recovery points.

Backups must be granular:

  • Ransomware – recovering before the attack was placed
  • Recovering a deleted file from five minutes ago
  • Or complete failure with application integrity
  • Data protection is today current vs passive.

Honestly, from a Data Center view, implement Virtual Protection Groups (VPGs) so you can group applications to be protected and recovered together. This provides complete application consistency, regardless of the physical location of the servers and storage. Protecting workloads with VPGs allows you to use an application-level granularity as opposed to a LUN-level granularity.  The ability to roll back to a point in time only minutes before the outage can save your company’s reputation, not to mention your data.

At the simplest level, business continuity is critical because downtime equates to lost revenue. In the longer term, if your operations are disrupted, customers will likely take their business elsewhere.

Benefits in the Digital World

  • Eliminates most Planned and Unplanned outages
  • Granular recovery of files/tables, transactions to minutes
  • Complete systems Failover capabilities in a disaster
  • Granular testing from individual applications to complete data center
  • Resiliency Strategy includes Application tiers, On-premise, and Hybrid Cloud
  • Orchestrated testing with non-disruptive capabilities
  • Infrastructure Performance Validation
  • OS or Application Patch and Upgrade Validation
  • Security & Ransomware Capabilities

IT must sunset traditional Data Center deployments and transform itself away from monolithic designs, and labor-intensive execution.  Nothing will undermine the credibility of IT leadership more than Data Center instability, extended break fix periods, or broken software or hardware integrations.  IT must implement a culture of inclusion in business delivery not just IT delivery.

 

3 Kinds of People in IT
Those that make things happen
Those who watch things happen
Those who wonder what has just happened

The time is now to examine JUST ONE THING to deliver IT Resiliency to protect and make systems available to your Business.  It seems basic, but this is the most fundamental principle of running IT.

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Richard Dolewski is a recognized SME and award-winning speaker specializing in Business Resiliency, Cloud Architecture, DR Planning and Backup & Recovery Program Design.