In IT, failure is not an option. Not surprisingly, organizations have made it a high priority to develop and implement reliable business continuity plans to ensure that IT services are always available to internal users and outside customers.
But recent technology developments and trends, most notably server and desktop virtualization, cloud computing, the emergence of mobile devices in the workforce and social networks, are having an impact on how enterprises handle IT business continuity planning and testing. Much of the impact is for the better, experts say, but these trends can also create new challenges for IT, information security and risk management executives.
Here's a look at how these tech megatrends are affecting IT business continuity specifically.
Virtualization is making business continuity planning easier for IT executives and their organizations, if for no other reason than it's helping to reduce the number of IT assets, says George Muller, vice president, sales planning, supply chain & IT at Imperial Sugar Co, Sugar Land, Texas, one of the nation's largest processors and marketers of refined sugar.
"For those of us who have been in the IT world for a few years, we've seen the transition from the old large mainframes to client server to Web-based applications to cloud based computing," Muller says. "During that time the proliferation of PCs and servers has been wild."
With so many devices to maintain and keep running, particularly physical servers in the data center, ensuring systems uptime had become a much greater challenge, Muller says. "With virtualization, we've now been able to reduce that footprint [of servers], which means when we are planning for business continuity now we've got fewer devices to worry about."
Server virtualization has allowed communications and compliance technology services provider Walz Group in Temecula Calif., to greatly reduce its planned outages, and largely eliminate unplanned downtime, says Bart Falzarano, CISO.
Using server virtualization, the company can manage, support and secure its applications more effectively, Falzarano says. Walz has been able to achieve higher virtualization efficiencies (a higher number of virtual machines to hypervisor host) using newer infrastructure technology.
The company is then able to leverage workload mobility capabilities locally that allow it to quickly switch virtual machines and applications between different physical resource pools of compute, memory and storage.
"For maintenances, upgrades, firmware updates, critical patches, etc., Walz simply moves the applications away from the area being impacted by the maintenance activity," Falzarano says. "Once the maintenance activity, testing and quality control checks are complete, [we] may move the application back to that region or area."
Virtualization has actually had a bigger impact on disaster recovery than on business continuity, says John Morency, research vice president at research firm Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn., although one area where there's been an effect on continuity is work area recovery.
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