How to Ensure Business Continuity in the Cloud

Business continuity and disaster recovery programs help protect your organization from unplanned downtime. And ensuring that your business systems run on several different infrastructures — whether via public clouds like Amazon or private clouds on-site — could mean the difference between keeping a business running and going out of business.

According to a article by Michael Crandell, a key to cloud usage is designing your infrastructure with the possibility of failure in mind. But implementing failure-resilient systems is tough.

“How can you quickly move your operations from one infrastructure to the next when the pressure is on and the alarm bells are ringing?” Crandell asked. “How do you design a system that not only allows new compute resources to begin to operate as part of your service, but also folds in an up-to-date copy of the data your users and customers depend on?”

While Crandell says there is no magic bullet, one general approach works quite well: redundancy and automation in the cloud.

The first step is to create a solution that uses components that can withstand server, storage volume, or entire data center failures. Each component (at the Web, application layer and data layer) should be considered independently and then designed by keeping in mind data center infrastructure, Internet bandwidth, cost, and performance.

“But the secret sauce really comes in how your architecture is operated,” Crandell said in his article. “What parts of the system can respond automatically to failure, what parts can respond nearly automatically, and which not at all? To be more specific, if a given cloud resource goes down — be it a disk drive, a server, a network switch, a SAN, or an entire geographical region — how seamlessly can you launch or fail over to another and keep operations running? Ideally, of course, the more that’s automated (or nearly so), the better your operational excellence.”

While many thought the cloud was a total solution to business continuity and risk management, it’s not. But by recognizing that cloud architectures can fail, businesses will be able to design better continuity plans and infrastructure, which leads to greater business resiliency.

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