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Key trends in business continuity invocations

Each year Sungard AS publishes a summary of its business continuity service invocations, providing useful insights into incident trends. Here Daren Howell presents four key trends from the most recent data.

It’s easy to take for granted or forget the extent to which our lives now rely upon technology that is always on. Every now and again, however, something happens to remind us of this reliance and it’s often an uncomfortable situation for everyone involved. As IT environments become increasingly complex, unfortunately these types of incidents are only going to increase.

Over the past few years, there has been a steady uptick in the number of instances that businesses have required recovery services, reversing what was a long-established downward trend. Businesses are facing an evolving threat landscape, with the increase in malicious cyber attacks, alongside changing working habits that have seen more flexible approaches to the workplace environment and the infiltration of different and more complex technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things. It’s perhaps, therefore, unsurprising that the need for recovery support is on the rise, however it is not always for the reasons you would expect.

Taking a close look at why businesses are invoking recovery services from The Sungard AS annual Availability Trends report, there are four key areas where they are struggling to align their availability priorities in the face of an ever-changing environment. To ensure that they avoid losing customer trust, affect revenue growth or in the worst cases, place the future of the company in jeopardy, businesses need to pay more attention to these areas to ensure their organization’s business, IT and market availability.

Taking care of bricks and mortar

When it comes to technology investment, businesses have been, quite rightly, very focused on protecting themselves against the cyber threat. In fact, UK businesses cite remaining secure to cyber threats as one of the biggest challenges facing their IT department, trumped only by changing IT infrastructure and cloud adoption. The recent and globally widespread WannaCry attack is a good example of why these concerns are well founded. However, businesses also need to ensure that they are maintaining the physical fabric of their business and IT environments too. 

This year’s analysis showed that eight out of ten invocations are due to workplace incidents and 2016 saw the highest level of environmental issues since the annual analysis began over two decades ago. Clearly there is a need for businesses to pay closer attention to the environment in which they house their employees and hardware and not just put all their efforts into ensuring a robust and secure virtual infrastructure.

Maintaining the physical fabric of the workplace and integrity of organizational data centres / centers or computer rooms on a regular basis will help guard against infrastructure failures and avoid the hefty price tag attached to infrequent upgrades, poor change management or both.

Powering the people

It may surprise some that something as simple as maintaining power to the workplace is a real issue for businesses. Despite power outages consistently making the top three reasons for businesses to use their recovery plans in anger, these instances are on the rise for the third successive year, now accounting for one in four failures (24 percent) – up from the one in five in previous years, 19 percent (2015) and 18 percent (2014). With revenue growth often attached to a productive and effective workforce, the potential impact on the bottom line is clear to see.  

The IT environment is vulnerable too.  We are living in a digital age, one that relies on power to survive but also evolve. Power failures can undermine the very progress organizations seek to achieve as they undergo transformative IT programmes.

Staying in touch

Issues arising from communications-related failure have been on the up for a number of years and are the current joint leading cause of business invocations (power and hardware being its bedfellows). This increase has gone hand in hand with the growing trend for more flexible working practices, as employers look to meet the requirements of today’s digital employee in tandem with the mobility modern devices afford. Recent research by Employee Benefits and Staffcare revealed that two-thirds (61 percent) of UK employers surveyed offer flexible working initiatives and more than 8 out of 10 employees think that flexible working improves productivity, according to Vodafone.

These initiatives are all well and good, but are predicated on the assumption that robust, resilient, voice and data communication technology is available. If the employees are unable to communicate with each other whilst working in or outside of the office environment then not only do productivity or efficiency plummet, there is also significant impact on staff morale, their ability to provide support to customers and ultimately do their job. As the flexible working trend gains popularity, it is more vital than ever for companies to avoid giving their customers or staff reasons to look elsewhere for goods, services or employment. In light of this, is it surprising that only 11 percent of businesses’ mission critical applications are suitable for use on mobile devices.

Trustworthy technology

Being able to trust the hardware on which a business rests is absolutely vital and although the number of invocations made as a result of technology are maintaining a downward trend, issues relating to hardware failures are increasing, substantially. Invocations as a result of hardware failures increased by 140 percent in 2016. For the majority of the businesses that suffered these issues, they needed a quick delivery of IT equipment, meaning that the failure likely happened on IT hardware under their control.

With customer loyalty fickler than ever, it is vital that businesses do not underestimate the importance of providing always-on, 24/7 service and support. But doing this is becoming harder than ever as the digital infrastructure that businesses sit on looks increasingly complex and the skills needed to manage the complex environment are at a premium. The three leading causes for invocations demonstrate that getting the basics right is so important and an area where businesses need to invest a little more in.

The author

Daren Howell is product marketing manager and business continuity expert, Sungard Availability Services.

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