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What does availability mean for business?

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Always-on availability in the modern data centre has become a business imperative. Companies can ill afford not to have access to their data whether it is in the office or out in the field using a mobile device. But how does one go about creating such an environment in a cost-effective way? Warren Olivier, regional manager of Veeam Southern Africa takes a look.

“One of the links in the chain between data and the user is the application. Companies are driven by apps for everything from email, internet access, and enterprise resource planning, to mobility, customer information, and sales data. So if an app goes down, the recovery time of getting it back up and running needs to be proportionate to the importance it plays within the organisation,” says Olivier.

And while tiering apps might not be new, the Always-On business needs to take this to heart as a means to enable the modern data centre. Enabling technologies such as the cloud, modern storage, and virtualisation mean nothing if there is no collaboration between them and the applications used within the organisation.

“In the connected world, apps need to be virtual. However, many enterprises are nervous about going this route for their tier one (mission-critical) apps. If these go down, they need to be online in a matter of minutes or cause severe financial and reputational loss for the business.”

For Olivier, embracing virtualisation means that there will be an availability gap. This is especially the case where tools are used that have not been designed for a hosted environment and have not evolved to meet the new business requirements.

“Even if some of these solutions support virtualisation to an extent, companies will still not be able to get all the cost saving and efficiency benefits of ones developed with an Always-On goal in mind. Furthermore, companies can afford to be hardware agnostic as the focus is on virtual. It is now all about being up and running 24/7, as quickly as possible and getting access to corporate data,” he says.

Business continuity and disaster recovery, for all the benefits it provides, does not necessarily mean that the application will be ready. Instead, it means that the organisation is only ready to start the recovery process. Olivier says that in this Always-On environment, the app has become king. Companies therefore need to look at service providers who can give fast availability around the application stack and not just the hardware one.

“For such providers, there might be plenty of low-hanging fruit available to get companies virtually connected. However, a model needs to be adopted where Tier 1 apps are almost immediately available in the event of a crisis. This, in turn, becomes a cost exercise in terms of which apps need to have such a classification. It could very well be a case of 20 percent of apps need to be up and running within 15 minutes while 60 percent within five hours,”

Even if companies move to a virtual environment, there will always be legacy tools that are not able to actively embrace it. However, with apps that are born in the cloud designed to take advantage of the virtual workload, companies are better empowered to take advantage of these connectivity features.

“It is therefore vitally important to transform and innovate to stay relevant in the digital world of business. Companies not only need to move to new virtualised platforms but also need to bring their older technologies along for the ride. At a fundamental level, the business needs to embrace the change needed to move to new platforms and take care of the availability directive through Always-On applications.”

As Olivier concludes, existing legacy protection strategies are not capable of embarking on this journey.

“Innovating and embracing change become essential in this new landscape. The days of relying on legacy protection are long gone. Welcome to the era of bespoke solutions designed for the unique availability requirements of a modern company.”