How to ensure business continuity in IT landscape: 5 key areas to focus

A 5 part blog series by Zensar Architecture Centre of excellence

Part One

Have you ever heard a phrase, “Having a BBC moment (or a CNN moment in the US)”? It is used when a company suddenly appears on the news because of the inconvenience caused to its customers due to some incident. For example, a bank having problems with ATM withdrawals or a retail giant’s website going down on Thanksgiving Day. Many a times the reason for disruption is an IT incident which they usually describe as “technical glitch” in the media.

Yes, you guessed it right I am talking about business continuity in a company’s IT landscape. To avoid such BBC moments, every mission critical application or a system should have necessary business continuity measures in place. By mission critical I mean the causes of failure that directly reflect in revenue losses and/or customer dissatisfaction.

The companies running their IT operations of a fairly big size are left at significant risks if certain core concepts in this area are not understood and planned for.

Business continuity in IT landscape

Business continuity in business or operations terms simply means having a plan ready and the ability to execute that plan when a disastrous incident occurs. For example this plan may describe how to deal with a truck drivers’ strike in a supply chain company as it is a serious business disruption. But it has a little different interpretation from IT operations perspective. There is always an element of uncertainty involved in smooth running of hardware and software based IT systems, hence it is of prime importance to have business continuity measures in place for all the systems in IT estate.

What does it mean?

In IT landscape of a company, business continuity means to maintain continuous operations such that the systems of business are always accessible and available with no downtime including any planned upgrades or maintenance periods. Having business continuity measures in place minimizes the impact of any disastrous incidents.

Do not confuse it with

  • DR – People sometimes confuse business continuity with disaster recovery. Disaster recovery is a reaction to the disaster incident and will have all activities listed to recover the IT systems back to original state in most effective and quickest manner. However business continuity is more of proactive plan to avoid or minimize the impact of any such incidents and it forms a broader aspect of maintenance and support areas to continue the business as usual. So DR is a subset within a BCP.
  • BCP – Business continuity plans at business operations level mostly involve people and processes and only deal with business level activities. BCPs are also a mandatory/statutory requirements in most of the intra company contracts. But within the context of IT systems it is more of a technical approach and mechanisms to ensure continuous operations of the systems.

Important areas to consider in business continuity

Do the impact analysis first and identify the critical areas

First and foremost identify the critical business processes and systems in your organization. Ask questions such as:

  • What do we need recovered first to stay in business?
  • What do our customers need to remain assured of our stability?
  • What do our business partners require to continue order, fulfillment and delivery?
  • What do our vendor relationships insist upon to work with us?

Answers to these will identify the critical business systems covered under the business continuity scope.

Plan, prioritize and budget for the resources and risk mitigation

Based on criticality (worked out of analysis above) prioritize each element. Make sure the plan addresses the effects of possible business disruptions and is not based on threats or anticipations. Secure the budget to undertake BC measures and put together a business case if necessary to secure the budget.

Refer the regulations and legislative compliance

Meet the regulations and follow relevant international standards for IT equipment, data center etc. to ensure natural alignment to business continuity, safety and assurance.

Train staff and re-align processes to handle the impact

Ensure the people involved are trained and the processes laid down are customized enough to handle the impact.

Exercise backup and fall back plans in case of partners and service providers

Always ensure you have plan B when there is dependency on partners and service providers.

Of course it comes with a price tag!

Yes, all of this requires investing serious money and hence you will have to weigh the pros and cons while forming a strategy and taking decisions. There is a risk of over-engineering systems and the IT setup if we get too bogged down by the BC aspects. So each BC measure devised has to make business sense.

5 key areas of IT architecture that influence the business continuity

Putting in place business continuity measures is no doubt a business challenge which needs appropriate advisory consulting and serious efforts from IT architects. Enterprise architecture provides a systematic approach and framework to ensure the end goals are met when such initiatives are undertaken.

There are five key architecture areas that need considerations in ensuring business continuity,

  • High availability architectures and continuous operations mechanisms
  • Architectures that effectively address disaster recovery requirements
  • Information architecture, data archiving and recovery mechanisms
  • Infrastructure/equipment and server backups and recovery mechanisms
  • Planned and timely Platform and software upgrades

I will address each one of these areas in the next parts of this series. But I do look forward to your feedback and comments which will inspire me to write further parts of series.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Part Two

High availability architectures

Part Three

Disaster recovery measures

Part Four

Data archiving and server backups

Part Five

Platform and Software upgrades

About the Author

Vijaykumar Dixit – Vijay has over two decades’ industry experience and over 15 years in IT. Vijay is a TOGAF9.1 certified practitioner and Oracle master certified JavaEE architect. He holds bachelor’s degree in Engineering and a PG diploma in advanced computing. He is currently part of Zensar’s Architecture Centre of Excellence.

His areas of expertise are enterprise architecture, solution design-consulting, SaaS product development and cloud computing. He has helped clients define & setup technology road-map, establish architecture governance and best practices and achieve increased return on IT spend by promoting Service oriented architectures, cloud migration and applications portfolio review and rationalization. He has been a key contributor in Java based enterprise solutions development and also has a sound background of DotNet (Microsoft), Open source based bespoke development and COTS based integration. He has worked for blue chip clients such as Boots PLC, TNT Logistics, Carphone Warehouse, Verizon & Government organizations such as ONS and NHS in the UK and Liberty, Discovery etc. in South Africa.

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