One of the most remarkable aspects of the string of natural disasters around the world in recent months has been the ability of some companies to bounce back, while others flounder, writes Tony Davis, MD of Dovetail.
One of the reasons for the ability of some companies to rebound is their supply chain and its inherent resilience. An important component of the supply chain is the underpinning IT systems, which need to be able to respond to negative events and keep going, and if they can’t, the company concerned will suffer the consequences of some components or fully assembled items not reaching their destinations timeously.
This was certainly the case with the recent Japanese earthquake and resulting tsunami. Subsequent to the event, Sony reported a first-quarter loss of the equivalent of R1,4-billion after sales fell 10% largely as a result of supply constraints caused by the earthquake. Fujitsu Panasonic, Hitachi, Nissan, Xerox and Mazda were also affected negatively, reflecting the impact on their supply chains.
But it is an ill wind that blows no good, and Korea’s Hyundai reported a 19% leap in second-quarter sales, at the cost of its Japanese rivals.
IT systems have a major role to play in the resilience of any supply chain by creating continuity, typically through built-in redundancy.
Systems for companies with major supply chain dependencies generally are better if centralised. However, IT does not have to be physically located in just one place. There should be a solid fail-over or disaster recovery solution in place. That means having data and systems backed up to a separate location so that should the one location fail, users can immediately move to another one.
This should, of course, be a replica of the original site, relatively far away, including seating for important workers and mirroring of critical data. The ideal is that the backup site should be sufficiently remote so as not to be affected by the event that caused the original outage.
If this is not the case, and the one is destroyed, users could be in a position of losing years’ worth of data. This could have disastrous consequences.
This applies not only to major natural disasters, but it can also affect companies with something as simple as power outages and having basic failover systems such as a generator. However, for any midrange to large supply chain organisation, it is strongly advised to have an external service provider to either host, or be a secondary host.
For smaller companies, Davis would advise that they outsource the hosting and managing of the computer centre almost entirely. Not only will they get the benefits of a more secure, safe and resilient data centre, but they should also enjoy cost benefits in the long term.