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Continuity as a service: an emerging reality

We are in the middle of a big evolutionary leap in data recovery services, says Justin Lord.

A decade ago, server recovery was a manual process that took four to five days on average to complete. In fact, anything up to a week was acceptable. The solution was almost invariably on the client's site using dedicated infrastructure — the lack of bandwidth meant that replicating data between offices simply was not financially feasible.

The bursting of the dotcom bubble provided the impetus for a range of new hosted services and had a major impact on the disaster recovery services, as companies began to outsource hosting services. In turn, this prompted the growth in replication and co-location, mostly located within the same city, as connectivity costs and bandwidth issues remained a key constraint for the industry.

Over time, as we all know, connectivity prices started to come down, and bandwidth became more available in outer city areas. As a result, data centres could be moved to outlying areas, and dual-site solutions became more standard. And as the demand and expectations rose, so did the pressure on business continuity providers to guarantee resilience. Today, we are seeing triangulated gigabit solutions becoming commonplace — and clients really benefiting from the reduced latency.

Greater connectivity into multiple data centres has also driven an increase in the demand for on-site services like remote hands, monitoring portals that allow clients to monitor power and temperature, and the rise of service-level agreements. It also led to an increase in the concept of the single solution that included hosting, storage, networking and many of the associated managed services. In essence, this means a wide variety of services across platforms within the company can be fused back into a single recovery service — continuity as a service.

What does the future hold?

Given where we are now, it's worth looking at where we are likely to be going in the future. It's clear that infrastructure as a service and platform as a service will play a growing role in disaster recovery. They are not new, but they are changing the way companies use disaster recovery services by making recovery solutions more operationally relevant.

It must be borne in mind that the traditional hosted services I described at the beginning of this article are sometimes still quite sufficient for certain areas of businesses. Consequently, a business continuity company must still offer these types of services. Where there is considerable evolution is around the area of availability and network services. When it comes to availability, we are seeing more demand for managed backup and recovery, virtual server replication and high-availability solutions generally. Networks are obviously critical in today's connected environments, and so Internet bandwidth, voice and network recovery, point-to-point connectivity, MPLS recovery and managed security are also growing strongly.

Recovery services are becoming more operationally relevant and increasing the continuity of the business that is being offered, not specific services. In this context, it's obviously very important that one provider delivers the full service — everything hangs together so it's best if one company has responsibility for it.

Professional services play a hugely important role in this emerging business continuity landscape. They can help companies decide which components need to be hosted in Tier 3 data centres/centers or require fully managed services, by establishing how much the business depends on each component of the IT infrastructure.

Taking business continuity into the mainstream

Several services flow from the concept of continuity as a service, and complement it. These include managed services and replication services, but I especially want to highlight virtual server hosting, which creates fully resilient resource pools for clients to recover critical business applications. This on-demand capacity can also be used for normal daily operations at times when it is not required for disaster recovery — which is most of the time, after all.

Obviously, this resource pool's primary function is for business continuity, but it is there to be used for whatever the client wishes, for example, for R&D. It gives clients a seamless real-time recovery if that's what they want, which can include other services like call centres, telephony, work stations and so on. This fusion of services is possible because it all sits on the virtual infrastructure within the service provider's campus.

Continuity as a service is about evolving traditional recovery services into operationally relevant services that provide clients with virtual resources that can be used for much more than disaster recovery. It's all a very long way from the manual on-site recovery over several days, with dedicated infrastructure that basically stands idle for most of the time.

Author: Justin Lord, General Manager, Hosting Services, ContinuitySA.

•Date: 4th April 2012 • Africa/World •Type: Article • Topic: ICT continuity

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