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Performance-Based Business Continuity – Industry Insider

by William Laurent, William Laurent, Inc.Friday, November 7, 2008

I am happy to report that Business Continuity (BC) is finally starting to be understood from a more well-rounded perspective by both the vendor community and their clients. I am often skeptical of (non-customized) off-the-shelf solutions or template-based assessment methodologies for business continuity, for the simple fact that each enterprise has unique risks and perils to operational continuity depending on their geographical location, type of business, and other countless variables. Yet, despite the differences in the nature of each corporation, they all share the same reliance on networked services, servers, databases, and other devices. Nevertheless, most BC agendas fall short in properly understanding and integrating the detailed facets of the monitoring and performance management of critical IT hardware and infrastructure.

While BC planners allow for the implementation of mechanisms that aid in the support of IT operational continuity, these solutions often remain far from state-of-the-art and achieve minimal transparency, lessened proactive fault tolerance and scalability, and leave little room for improvement in all these areas. With limited visibility into the operational processes and supporting technology assets of an organization’s IT shop, comes poor control and compliance, and increased risk to business continuity throughout the entire enterprise, at all levels. A good overall enterprise-covering BC plan will not be possible without better performance management and a means to plumb and monitor the depths of its information technology portfolio.

While it is comforting to know that most BC initiatives are now focusing on determining the maximum allowable downtime (Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO)) for individual IT assets at a somewhat low level, much of this analysis lacks specific knowledge about how bullet-proof associated backup and recovery processes actually are. Furthermore, and just as alarming, there is often minimal understanding of how continuity issues are best raised in the first place—i.e. via monitoring technology and dashboards that serve as command-and-control centers to alert staff of present or future continuity crisis.

More than ever, corporate IT hardware is now tightly coupled to all business processes. All four cornerstones of business continuity [listed below], will touch on the efficacy of application servers, data servers, network servers:

  • Communication Continuity: Uninterrupted relentless day-to-day interaction and back-and-forth communication between the company and its clients, vendors, suppliers, regulators, and other interested parties.  
  • Data Continuity: Complete integrity of data and the access to that quality data by all interested parties. Data continuity will also be tightly coupled to all other types of continuity.
  • Application Continuity: This is sometimes referred to as process continuity; it represents the backbone for operational business processes and is logically modularized/represented along an axis of functional software components. 
  • Workforce Continuity: The ability of employees to carry out their business processes and functions in the event that a company’s primary facilities become unusable or dangerous. Many times this will involve alternative access to remote locations that are decoupled physically from a primary location but still offer the same communication infrastructure, data and applications access, and other technical and business support structures.

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