For these reasons, many organizations are making a concerted effort to tier applications and data, i.e., assess and make a strategic and comprehensive determination about which are most critical to the business. The most critical applications and data need inherent redundancy, as once those are in recovery mode the business has already stopped. Less critical applications and data can afford a more traditional recovery window. Organizations may also find it necessary to re-architect applications in order to make availability requirements feasible.
Tiering decisions also must consider system and applications interdependencies; because they can run deep within the data center, the weakest link will affect the ability to remain highly available.
IT as Diplomat
When tiering applications and data, organizations must consider both internal and customer requirements. For instance, prioritizing customer-facing applications may sustain revenues and customer satisfaction but also may cost the company in profits through lost employee productivity when delaying internal application restore. Balancing potentially competing needs can be critical to a successful backup and recovery strategy.
It is essential for IT to lead the discussion in determining which applications and data are critical for the business and ensure they have buy-in from C-level management. In some businesses, such as a brokerage house for example, it will be clear that e-mail is critical because of the role it plays in confirming task requests by customers – making the availability a priority. In other instances, IT may need to navigate through conflicting internal perspectives on what constitutes a top-tier application. This could come in the form of a CEO who expects e-mail to always be able to accessible, or from a database administrator who requests that database copies be maintained. In these circumstances, IT may be called on to act as a diplomat, listening, assessing, making recommendations and then gaining consensus among key stakeholders in the organization.
A Long-Term Outlook
When assessing applications and data, companies should take a long-term perspective. Too many businesses rush into a backup and recovery plan and end up reinvesting in assessment and architecture year after year. A better approach is to take the time to build a solid three to five-year plan. And in doing so, organizations need to consider not only the priority of applications and how to tier them, but also how their business may change – as influenced by compliance requirements, new technologies, business opportunities, etc.
This approach also positions an organization for some near-term payoff by tapping efficiencies, such as storage optimization, that allow information to be managed based on its actual value – aligning business need with availability and performance. Storage optimization focuses on helping companies get more out of their existing storage capabilities, rather than buying additional storage hardware. It also positions your company to shrink backup windows while speeding up restore processes, which can reduce backup costs.
A thorough application assessment is a fundamental component of a smooth operation. Tiering applications and data better prepares IT organizations for system disruptions and positions them to achieve more agile, effective recoveries from those disruptions. This approach enables companies to align their recovery solutions to the level of criticality of systems, ensuring recovery efforts start with the most essential applications and data to the business.
Kathleen M. Aris, CMP, has been supporting the business continuity industry for more than 16 years. She serves as senior manager, events marketing with SunGard Availability Services.