Continuity is now a highly relevant subject. As we all know, even the servers of an Internet giant like Amazon can fail. On the evening of September 20, 2015 that was what happened at their data center in Virginia. It was not only Amazon's own services in the northeastern United States that were knocked out; others followed in their wake, including Netflix and the dating app Tinder. Another giant was also knocked out recently in our own country of Belgium, with lightning striking the Google data center near Mons up to four times. Google still does not know how much data was lost due to this disaster, nor how many users were affected. In the case of Amazon, some newspapers (mainly Anglo-Saxon) have posited – not without some justification – what the impact might have been if the crash had been on a normal weekday rather than a Sunday. At Google the situation may be different – they claim that the loss affected only a very small percentage of user data. At Amazon, they were no doubt extremely thankful that September 20 was a Sunday.
Business continuity and ICT availability
Companies like Amazon and Google demonstrate to us that business continuity and the availability of ICT are inextricably linked to one other. Admittedly, tall trees catch the strongest wind and hit the front page straight away. But more and more businesses now have an IT infrastructure that needs to be available 24 hours a day. There are any number of examples: financial institutions, insurance companies, small and major online retailers, etc. If they have to deal with disruption, this often involves a significant financial loss.
Within the health care sector, the importance of ICT is increasing exponentially. Hospitals and other health care providers, such as home care, are evolving into a continuous, digitized service. This is the result of a number of trends in society, such as the growing demand for care from an aging population. The increasing requirement from the government for medical information to be transferred via digital platforms also plays a role here. e-Health and electronic patient records are just two examples. Care organizations need to have an ICT infrastructure that is available 24/7, because non-availability in this scenario costs not just money, but lives.
The interest of society in business continuity is clearly evident here, because it involves much more than just the financial stakes alone. It is also about loss of image, loss of confidence, the operational impact on a company's workforce and other stakeholders, and organizational challenges.
Consequential damage and impact
Business continuity involves making an estimate of the consequential losses to your business in the event that a critical business process or system fails. Each company needs to identify for itself what that impact is. It is the impact that will largely determine the measures you need to take to ensure continuity and availability within your company. Businesses that are closely intertwined with IT – financial institutions and hospitals, for example – are likely to be more concerned about availability. For them, a full failover system in an external data center is probably a must-have, while for other companies different considerations will apply – in full knowledge that the higher the level of guaranteed availability, the higher the price on the invoice. A good cost-benefit analysis can help you determine what the continuity of your business is worth to you and what is the best way to ensure it. If the impact of a fault or breakdown is minor, the resources required to guarantee continuity are also likely to be fairly small. The reverse, then, is also true. Resources here mean not only ICT and data, but procedures and processes, people and buildings.
Repeating the message
To return to the Amazons and Googles of this world, it is not for nothing that ICT companies are constantly repeating their message to at least keep pace with continuity and availability. Because although big names will no doubt find themselves in the news sooner rather than later, there are many stories like this that don't. This is despite the fact that the consequences may be just as disastrous – on whatever scale the affected companies operate. In other words, it is by no means a waste of time to take a critical look at the situation within your own company. While you are the one who decides to what extent you need to take action, be aware that disaster never knocks politely on the door to warn you when it will arrive. You would be much better off preparing for it.
Want to learn more about IT outsourcing? If so, contact Jo Leemans, Sales & Governance Manager IT Outsourcing RealDolmen.
This blog post is the third in a biweekly series of eight about IT outsourcing.
Want to learn more about IT outsourcing? Read also our other ITO blog posts:
Disruption is a fact: use IT outsourcing to reinforce your company's ability to change
You know the cost of IT outsourcing, but do you know its value?
Business continuity is the basis of every healthy company
In-house technology management is shifting to usage-base IT management. Are you ready for this? A checklist.
The cloud: the final hurdle on your way to IT Outsourcing?
If you want something done right, do it yourself - or maybe not?