Service Outage – How Long Would Your ‘Always-on’ Business Survive?

Business Management
|
IT Infrastructure

Service Outage – How Long Would Your ‘Always-on’ Business Survive?

Business Management | IT Infrastructure

If you’re running a business, how often have you questioned its resilience? How long would your business survive if you couldn’t deliver the service your customers require and expect?

A recent article in the FT, Bolts From the Blue Test our Fragile Systems, by Andrew Hill, was very thought provoking as it questioned resilience in our world today. It asked about resilience and its changing role in areas ranging from business continuity (where it is traditionally associated) through to efficiency and its impact on workers. It stated:

‘Resilience used to be a low priority, except among specialists and people working for always-on companies such as water utilities. It generally slipped to the bottom of the agenda for everybody else.’

The important phrase in this statement is ‘always-on’, because it now refers to so many more companies beyond national utilities.

Socially or at work, we all now rely on ‘always-on’ digital services, like Facebook, Google, Dropbox, Salesfoce.com, etc. The very fact that they are ‘always on’, that they are easy to use and can be accessed from anywhere is what makes them so popular. But like national utilities, the customer expectancy of ‘always on’ comes with significant responsibility, but also now increasing business vulnerability.

If the water stops flowing from the tap or the electricity goes off, switching to another supplier quickly is not possible. You need to wait until the service is restored and then think about changing supplier. Not a quick or straightforward process. The potential response of consumers is limited.

So what about digital ‘always-on’ services? Like a traditional utility, some are so ubiquitous most users would be forced to wait no matter how long the service was down. Facebook, I suggest, is such a company. There is no credible alternative to Facebook given its reach and the amount of our data it has. Perhaps we should mourn the demise of MySpace? How about Dropbox? If Dropbox went down how long would its customers wait until they were forced to find an alternative file sharing service – of which there are many?

So competition and customer choice is a significant vulnerability for ‘always-on’ businesses, especially when there are plenty of alternatives, e.g. retail, dating, betting, etc. Serious resilience failures here could ultimately, end an ‘always-on’ business.

Clearly, digital ‘always-on’ businesses, should be taking resilience planning very seriously. They should be asking themselves the question: How resilient is the IT infrastructure and systems that we rely on?

A very common IT strategy for many digital ‘always-on’ start-ups is the use AWS and other branded Cloud services. Easy to access and often free, these US-based public Cloud services appear attractive, but when it comes to resilience and business continuity how appropriate are they? ‘Putting all your eggs in one basket’ is rarely best practice when it comes to resilience and business continuity, but this is exactly what a growing number of ‘always-on’ businesses are doing; price and convenience often overshadow other business imperatives like resilience, control, responsiveness, transparency and flexibility – when something goes wrong at AWS, how easy is it to pick up the phone and talk to someone who can fix it?

At Flexiion, we specialise in helping our customers maximise the business advantages of their use of Cloud-based hosted IT. This can either be by delivering a Cloud-as-a-Service, ready-to-go hosted IT infrastructure platform or a parallel hybrid hosted IT service that optimises their use of AWS. This can be by adding greater system resilience or simply using our hosted-IT service to do the things AWS, et al, are not ideal for, such as data at rest.

Returning to the FT article:

‘Organisations cannot afford unlimited insurance. An oil company executive once pointed out to me that the ultimate back-up plan would involve building two interchangeable rigs for each oilfield, an unfeasibly costly solution.

But in too many places, too many people are running a single, consolidated system, with little or no resilience — and that distant rumbling could be thunder.’

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