Rethinking business continuity

IT downtime, whether planned or unplanned, still gives organisations headaches but the potential to cut costs through well-managed, multi-tiered data recovery has never been bigger.

IT downtime, whether planned or unplanned, undoubtedly causes serious and costly implications for organisations. In fact, according to Gartner, two out of five businesses will disappear within five years if they suffer a major IT outage.

The recent bushfires and recurring floods in Australia this year shows that we are by no means immune to external factors such as those with the potential to cause major disruption for businesses, including serious disaster recovery scenarios such as IT outages. Despite advancements in infrastructure robustness, many businesses still face database, hardware and software downtime. Downtime can vary from a few hours to shutting down a business for days.

As a result, businesses suffer a grave loss in revenue and double the hard work in getting back on track. Downtime for businesses has dramatic ramifications not only to productivity and reputation but also the bottom line, and therefore needs to be better understood by Australian businesses and if possible, prevented.

With the cost of downtime-per-hour increasing 65 per cent over the last two years, it is evident that IT downtime is still plaguing end users; and worse yet, businesses are failing to have an effective disaster recovery plan in place. As more businesses expand their reliance on IT, it’s surprising to see so much tolerance for IT downtime, especially in an era of virtualisation that can minimise IT downtime, if not make it unnecessary altogether.

The cost of downtime is often calculated as ‘Cost of downtime = Outage hours * (Lost productivity Lost revenue)’. Though simplistic, this formula is effective as it does capture the essence of downtime, however, it may not be entirely representative as it does miss things like ancillary costs, such as the lack of staff morale and more importantly, the lack of confidence in the marketplace.

The true effects of downtime might often be underestimated, especially given that we live in a 24 news cycle and are privy to outages that happen all the time, for example Google’s recent outage to its web apps, which affected users globally. Closer to home, Westpac Bank experienced an outage to its online banking service making it unavailable to customers across desktop, mobile and tablet for seven hours, impacting 3.5 million customers online.

We are seeing significant increased investment in the data centre market. According to Frost & Sullivan, Australia is one of the most advanced data centre services market in terms of size in the Asia Pacific region, which estimates revenues in the Australian market will climb to over $1.5 billion by 2019.

A key driving force behind data centre investment is cloud adoption. Over the next 12 months, over 60 per cent of Australian enterprises currently using cloud plan to increase their cloud spend, whilst only two per cent plan to decrease it. Confidence in existing disaster recovery techniques will continue to fall in Australian businesses, as organisations begin to realise that recovery becomes less effective as data grows and cloud-based environments sprawl.

Contrary to the logic that virtualisation naturally lends itself to easier management and improved business continuity, virtualisation does deliver special benefits such as, improved IT management to ensure that business continuity can be assured as environments grow.

With the rise of virtualisation and the strength of infrastructure investment in key parts of Asia, the potential to reduce downtime costs through well-managed, multi-tiered data recovery has never been bigger.

Improvements in storage capacity and performance, computer-layer performance and the ability to extend disaster recovery to the cloud have allowed us to unlock business continuity techniques that were either physically impossible or prohibitively expensive just a few years ago.

Now is the time for Australian organisations to rethink business continuity, and reverse the trend of increasing complexity and costs in their data protection strategy.

Charles Clarke is technical director for Veeam Asia Pacific

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