Considering Continuity Needs
Considering Continuity Needs Lauren Whitehouse, senior analyst for the Enterprise Strategy Group, noted that just because you're already storing information in the cloud doesn't mean you're doing it in a way that will help with business continuity. She said it's important that your provider be able to handle the requirements of bringing your business back-and being able to do it in a timely manner. That, she said, depends on how long your business can stand being offline."Some businesses can't stand any interruption," Whitehouse said, "so they need a system that can immediately take over." She noted that such a business continuity solution needs to be in a location that is geographically dispersed from where the company's data center is located, so that the same disaster doesn't affect both locations.You also need to determine whether you can restore your business using the tools at hand. "Can you recover your business from your daily backups?" Whitehouse asked. "Considering the fire drill that results [after a disaster], businesses should put something else in place." The first step to using the cloud for business continuity, according to Whitehouse, is to determine what applications must be available immediately for your business to keep running. Critical applications can also be saved to the cloud and set up so that they can be run remotely using data that's also in the cloud. For most companies, this will mean finding a cloud provider that can handle both your data and your applications. It must also be able to support access to those applications while they are running in the virtual environment at the provider's location. The way this would work depends on your needs and on the capabilities of your cloud provider. In some cases, you might want to install your applications with a co-location service and point those applications to your data in the cloud. In other situations, you might want to use something like Amazon's EC2 elastic cloud computing service and its S3 storage service. This isn't necessarily a case of simply copying everything to the cloud and then using it, Whitehouse pointed out. First of all, when you're trying to bring your business back online, you can't bring up everything at once in most cases. Instead, you need to have already decided which applications are the most critical for your business and have made plans to get them online first. "It's a triage process," Whitehouse noted. The triage begins when you start deciding which applications are the most important to get online first. You will need to determine what applications are vital to your business immediately, and start there. For many companies, this may be e-mail; for others, it may be the customer service or sales applications. The next step is to make sure your employees know what to expect if you ever need to use the business continuity solution. Depending on the company, this may mean keeping it live and having some employees use it on a regular basis from a remote location. For others, it may mean simulating a real recovery effort, complete with evacuating to a remote office. Just as is the case with fire drills, it's important to have practiced your emergency response before the emergency happens.