The Persistent Gap between IT Availability and Business Continuity

As an individual who started out in IT and served in various roles in that capacity, I thought I grasped the challenges of business continuity. Granted, I did not profess to understand all the intricacies of business continuity. However, I assumed if an organization could keep or quickly bring its applications online, business continuity would subsequently follow. Having now attended my first DRJ fall conference focused on business continuity, I now see the gap between IT availability and business continuity.

Business Continuity Start with Highly Available IT

To be clear, business continuity in today’s world starts with IT. Survey results shared by Forrester at the conference indicated that the availability of IT systems and applications remains a top concern among those who responded – 61% to be exact. That factor alone more than doubles any other factor list in the ability of organizations to continue their business operations.
Comments shared during that breakout session reinforced that statistic. Many organizations, regardless of their vertical, can only continue operations if their IT systems consistently remain available during any type of crisis. Everything from hospital emergency room check-ins to power from utility companies to tellers in banks to burgers in fast food restaurants to you name it, they need IT all the time up to fully resume operations.

The Gap Between Highly Available IT and Business Continuity

However, the gap between IT availability and business continuity presents itself almost soon as organizations figure out how to keep their IT operations highly available. Organizations have spent and continue to expend a great deal of time, money, and energy on creating highly available IT systems. In so doing, they can overlook or forget to put into place the remaining pieces of the business continuity puzzle.

Data Classification

For instance, one individual with whom I spoke at the conference shared that his organization has lots of internal data it needs to recover for its hundreds of thousands of employees. On a basic level, the IT technology exists for his company to keep all that data highly available.
data magnifying glass
The challenge in his case is two-fold. First, it remains prohibitively expense for his company to build such a solution considering all the data it must recover. Second, it does not need to recover all this data immediately. It simply needs to recover the right data. The challenge becomes implementing the right solution that consistently identifies the right data to immediately recover and then only recovers it. It can then, in a step-wise fashion, recover the remaining data.
In his organization’s case, it has access to highly available solutions for its application. It lacks a data classification solution that enables it to cost-effectively build a business continuity solution for this application.

Mobile Building

Other organizations with which I spoke also indicated that even once one creates a highly available IT solution, business continuity requires someone to access it. For instance, a bank may configure its IT systems to recover in the cloud. That’s great – it means its bank branch can recover … except if the building itself burned to the ground, was flattened by a tornado, or is under water as a result of a flood. Then to ensure business continuity it needs to put in some type of building or trailer to resume operations.

Communications Intelligence

Still another concern becomes appropriately prioritizing communications in the time of a crisis. Thanks to mobile devices and wireless and satellite communications, organizations can communicate with everyone almost instantly. Except this ready access to instant communications presents its own set of problems – especially in large organizations during crisis. These organizations can flood their staff with so many messages it overwhelms their staff.
wireless broadcast symbol2
This deluge of information slows recoveries and delays the resumption of business operations. Their staff may start to ignore messages or miss messages to which they should pay attention. Alternatively, they may become consumed trying to read all messages which precludes them from performing the tasks their organization needs them to complete in order to resume operations.

Highly Available IT Only the Foundation for Business Continuity

The DRJ Fall 2019 conference made it plain to me that a persistent gap remains between the high availability of IT systems and business continuity. The two are inextricably linked with few if any organizations able to resume operations with first having their IT systems online. However, organizations should not assume that just because they have created a highly available IT environment that they can resume business operations. Highly available IT systems simply serve as the foundation for a viable business continuity plan, not the capstone of it.

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