Business Continuity Encompasses the CloudBy Bob Violino Print
A growing number of organizations are using the cloud, virtualization, storage replication and deduplication, and automation to keep the business running.
Securing the Infrastructure
Another company that's invested considerable time and effort in its BC plan is LeapFrog Interactive, an online ad and marketing company in Louisville, Ky. The company offers multiple digital services to clients, including hosted services such as virtual servers, Web hosting and email.
Leapfrog began to rethink and redesign its IT infrastructure about six years ago, says Carl West, vice president of managed technology solutions.
"Virtualization technology for x86 processors was readily available, and we had a goal to keep the entire infrastructure as secure and portable as possible," he says. "We began putting a business continuity plan together for our [critical] systems," such as hosting for public services and project management. Later, the company expanded this to its development environments and other internal resources.
The BC plan includes not just virtualization, but shared storage, backup and replication, network redundancy, documentation, routine tests and a failback procedure.
Planning the strategy involved a number of key participants. "Our entire team of engineers worked with me to come up with a solid technical solution," West says. He worked with the company's leadership team consisting of the CEO, CFO, vice president of client services and vice president of business development to create the best path for the company.
"One challenge we encountered was figuring out the best way to deal with our always-growing storage needs," West says. "In the early days, we had only two or three [terabytes] of data. As we continued to grow, we had to quickly come up with a strategy to keep that data backed up and under control."
The solution was to use storage replication and deduplication. "That allowed us to have several copies of our data without taking up as much storage as we used to," he says.
Another component of the BC plan is geographic redundancy. "We like to keep our data centers a minimum of 90 miles apart," West reports. "That's close enough for a quick drive to get to the site, but far enough apart to give us a buffer for many environmental disasters."
One key best practice is to focus on the truly important Items, West says. "Not everything is critical," he says. "Perform a business impact analysis and focus on the items that really matter for your business."
It's also vital to perform periodic reviews of the plan. "It's easy to create a plan and forget about it," West says. "You need to get it out and dust if off every once in a while to ensure everyone is ready."
Automation a Key Factor
For a growing number of organizations, automation is becoming a key factor in business continuity.
"From a technology perspective, automation is something some companies are looking into in order to make planning more streamlined and less error-prone," says Rachel Dines, a senior analyst at research firm Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass., who covers infrastructure and operations issues. "It's also easier to keep plans up to date when you use an automated system."
Workforce continuity and emergency communications have recently emerged as top challenges for BC planning, Dines says. "Events like hurricane Sandy highlighted the vulnerabilities in these plans," she says. "Testing can improve both of these challenges, but it's also important to think about workforce continuity plans that go beyond just 'work from home', which is what many companies tend to use as a catchall for all employees."
One thing organizations will need to overcome is the tendency to separate recovery functions that really should be working together, Dines says. "Business continuity and disaster recovery [DR] teams have become too siloed in recent years," she says.
There was an initial push to separate the two functions in order to make sure that business continuity teams did not become too bogged down in the technology side, Dines says. "But they've now taken this split too far and fail to coordinate activities together," she adds.
"Moving forward, BC and DR teams need to make an effort to work together more closely, starting with the planning and testing cycle."
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