Technology introduces both opportunities and challenges to businesses, prompting IT leaders to constantly revaluate which solutions they need to implement to keep operations running smoothly. But as reliance on technology increases, so do the risks that come with it.
Unfortunately, business continuity often does not get the attention it deserves, as IT teams manage systems day-to-day. But it has become harder than ever to maintain normal operations during unexpected events given that IT environments are often disparate and highly susceptible to downtime and data loss. And failure to plan for the worst can result in major financial hardships—especially since the average hourly cost of downtime has surpassed $300,000.
Resources are often strained, especially when it comes to managing risk and keeping systems secure and online during unforeseen incidents. This is why companies need the cloud to scale and adapt their business continuity strategies to include the cloud. (Also read: How Digital Transformation Can Bring Resilience During Disruptions.)
Here’s how cloud computing can help your business maintain core business operations during a disruption:
Increase Operational Agility and Scalability
Business continuity management depends on agility. Organizations must be able to adapt to changes in their respective markets and unexpected disruptions caused by everything from global pandemics to cyberattacks. (Also read: The Cyberattacks Pandemic: A Look At Cybercrime in the COVID-19 Era.)
Enterprises still heavily reliant on in-house networks, data centers and inefficient legacy technology are highly unlikely to achieve the necessary agility. In such an environment, even a local power or internet outage lasting an hour can costs millions in unscheduled downtime.
There are also physical limitations to consider: In any business premises, there is limited space available for installing backup servers and network infrastructure. As the amount of data routine business operations generates increases exponentially, that challenge is only going to intensify. Using cloud-based software streamlines business continuity by facilitating seamless backup and disaster recovery, ample redundancies, and practically limitless scalability.
Consider, for example, how this compares to the old way of doing things: when enterprises would use tape drives for manually backing up their data at certain intervals and then have those drives sent off to a secure, off-site facility.
The cloud, by contrast, provides practically unlimited data storage potential, on top of readily accessible processing power and functionality in the form of cloud-based apps and virtual machines. Rather than relying solely on local physical infrastructure, businesses can take an entirely software-defined approach to operational continuity. Cloud computing makes that possible by bringing software to the web so end users can access it from any internet-connected device—an advantage the COVID-19 pandemic’s work-from-home mandates made very clear. (Also read: Smart Data Management in a Post-Pandemic World.)
Shedding reliance on physical infrastructure gives organizations the flexibility and scalability they need to continue their operations under virtually any eventuality. Employees can work from home if they are unable to go to the office in person. They can access the apps and data they need to do their jobs online, even if your internal network is down. Data loss can easily be remedied by restoring a recent backup from the cloud, and so forth.
One of the goals of business continuity planning is to maximize availability of mission-critical resources so customers can enjoy the level of service they expect and employees can do their jobs to the best of their abilities.
With cloud-based business continuity, you can continuously and automatically replicate your data systems and recovery efforts. For example, major cloud providers store data in multiple physically and logically isolated locations, with the data center nearest to you typically serving your cloud-hosted apps and data. However, if the usual location experiences a service outage, the service will usually connect to another location with a real-time copy of your data. In most cases, end users won’t even notice the disruption. (Also read: Overcoming IT Service Management Change Management Woes With the Power of AI.)
That said, it is important not to take business continuity for granted just because you are using cloud-based software. Indeed, even major providers like Amazon and Microsoft can experience widespread outages—and they have before. Since redundancy is one of the fundamentals of business continuity, it is advisable to avoid reliance on any one vendor.
That’s part of why multi-cloud strategies are becoming more popular. Having real-time copies of all your apps and data stored across multiple cloud providers makes it practically impervious to loss.
When building your cloud business continuity plan, it is important to set realistic goals before choosing the solutions you will need to accommodate them. The two most important metrics to consider here are:
- Your recovery point objective (RPO), which refers to how much data you can afford to lose.
- Your recovery time objective (RTO), which designates how much time a given system can be offline without causing significant business damage.
Adopting a multi-cloud approach with a consolidated and fully integrated business continuity platform can greatly increase your chances of meeting those objectives. (Also read: 10 Myths About Multi-Cloud Data Management.)
Another undeniable benefit of cloud-based business continuity is that it gives businesses the opportunity to distribute the risk in a manner ensuring their own internal networks do not end up being a single point of failure (SPOF).
Cloud providers are contractually bound by their service level agreements (SLAs) to deliver a minimum level of service, part of which is defined by availability. Service availability, or “uptime,” is measured as a percentage and typically advertised as a number of nines—for example, “five nines,” or “99.999%,” (which is the commonly accepted availability standard for emergency response systems) equates to only 5.26 minutes of downtime per year.
If a cloud vendor fails to live up to their guaranteed terms, their SLAs will usually stipulate the compensation the client can expect to receive. This may include financial penalties, like credits for service time. A comprehensive SLA will also detail the client’s responsibilities—so it should be clearly worded and exhaustive and ensure complete transparency during service incidents. (Also read: 5 Questions Businesses Should Ask Their Cloud Provider.)
More and more businesses are migrating to the cloud to protect their mission-critical services from unscheduled downtime and other threats.
Deploying a cloud-enabled integrated business management system, with business continuity baked in, is an important starting point for reducing risk and enhancing profitability and brand equity.