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Key criteria for hosted business continuity

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The adoption of cloud computing models is revolutionising how IT is procured and used – and also how organisations ensure business continuity. However, says Sasha Malic, head of Availability and Hosting Services at ContinuitySA, the two should not be confused.

“Many organisations are hosting components of their IT systems at an ISP’s data centre, and are also using the ISP for disaster recovery—only to discover when it’s too late that they are not getting true business continuity, which covers all the systems as well as the processes that run on them and the staff,” Malic explains. “It definitely makes sense to use the cloud approach to obtain professionally hosted and managed business continuity, but there’s more to it than replicating servers onto a different rack in the same data centre!”

Malic says that when considering a provider of a hosted, managed business continuity solution, companies should consider the following criteria:

* Track record. Does the provider work with other, similar state entities—does it understand the complexities?

* Capabilities. Can the provider provide an end-to-end solution that, critically, includes consulting to ensure that the right solutions are chosen. “The speed of recovery has a cost attached, so it’s important to ascertain which the critical systems are,” says Malic. “One has to balance criticality with cost to craft the best solution.” Similarly, just providing a recovery site is not enough, he adds: the provider needs to be able to help develop the business continuity plan and, critically, to test it..

Many businesses are facing the challenges of militant strike action or service delivery protests that compromise their premises. For that reason, a work-area recovery facility can be important.

* Connectivity. Offsite backup and recovery capabilities are only as good as their connection to the production environment. In addition, the business continuity provider should be able to provide multiple connectivity channels in order in case of failure.

* Flexibility. Given the complexity of their systems environments and also their large footprints, large organisations typically require a tailored business continuity solution. It is thus important that they engage with a provider who has the scale and robust processes to deliver the needed solutions. “Flexibility and the ability (and willingness) to accommodate the client’s needs are critical,” Malic argues. This flexibility includes the ability to help the client respond to partial disasters such as a flooded basement or an offline Exchange server.

“Business continuity that really mitigates the risks you face is not that easy to achieve—and it’s a continuous process not a single event,” Malic concludes. “Choosing the right business continuity provider is critical.”