One hour of downtime is estimated to cost an organization over $300,000. For most organizations, this comes in the form of productivity loss, legal complications, or even higher-risk stakes, such as having a negative impact on lives and livelihoods in healthcare and financial industries.
But while the case for IT uptime is fairly clear, backup, disaster recovery (DR), and business continuity aren’t always viewed as strategic priorities. Instead, efforts often focus on simply checking off a box.
What is the business case for continuity, and why should it be a cornerstone for any organization pursuing ongoing digital transformation?
A Need That Keeps Growing
Business continuity is a wide field encompassing the people, workplaces, and tools required for organizations to run smoothly. Digital transformation is changing the balance of this equation on a constant basis. For example, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, many industries have had to implement ways to deliver services remotely. Even operations that typically require a physical presence, like healthcare, have turned towards video consultations to meet with and service their clients.
Although a physical presence may continue to be necessary for the continuity of some services (the most relevant in the case of disaster being emergency services, law enforcement, logistics, and construction), many organizations are finding that they can assist their customers within a new remote paradigm.
So how does this all affect business continuity strategy? Organizations further along in their digital transformation journey had a leg up for this new world that has emerged in the wake of unprecedented global crisis, reacting faster to enable increased remote collaboration, business efficiencies, and resiliency.
Investing in digital transformation enables the decoupling of the workforce from traditional service delivery methods. By architecting strong cloud computing-based solutions, businesses can reduce the need for physical backup sites and make their business more agile and responsive.
How digital transformation improves continuity
In turn, digital transformation can also improve continuity. Many digital transformation efforts lend themselves nicely to business continuity, simply due to the distributed, resilient nature of digital operations. Transformation is about digitizing previously manual processes, embracing cloud services where possible, and exploring new technology solutions alongside processes to deliver efficient and innovative business operations.
Some of the more practical applications of these efforts are:
- Remote access to company networks, applications, and data, to prevent a company’s workforce from being tied to a specific office site and instead enable employees to access centralized services from anywhere, any time
- Process modernization that converts manual processes to digital ones wherever possible
- Cloud-based collaboration and productivity solutions, including video calls, web chat, email, Office applications, and file sharing
- Automation of digital workflows, including IT administration and configuration
In these instances, digital transformation can inherently improve continuity by allowing users to access and control how they interact with corporate information systems, fostering collaboration, and efficiency through modernization and automation.
In addition, cloud-based systems are designed to be resilient and avoid single points of failure, such as document storage on a local workstation or storage array.
That means if an organization’s primary office location is unavailable for any reason, its workforce can disperse without losing access to critical data or services.
Here are just a few ways organizations can take advantage of business continuity to help advance digital transformation:
1) Leveraging continuity toolsets for hybrid migrations: Many digital transformation continuity tools (in particular, disaster recovery software) can also be used for cloud migrations and workload mobility, providing an on-ramp to the cloud that is cost-effective and fast. Migrating via DR ensures you avoid extended downtime when recovery cuts over to cloud servers, as your target environment is already tested and functional. Using cloud-based DR solutions allows seamless migration of large VM sets, even in the thousands. And you can pull them back quickly by implementing policies to validate configurations and functionality before committing to the migration.
2) Transforming security for the new perimeter: Information security today needs to encompass corporate-owned to personal desktop, laptop, and mobile devices, meaning you can no longer count on just controlling VPN access. This necessitates a shift from perimeter security hardening to zero trust models and a focus on access and identity management. Security strategy must include cloud services and apps used for business-critical operations, as one cannot assume that IaaS, SaaS, and end-user devices are threat-free environments. This is the essence of Zero Trust: all activity is explicitly verified, and security controls are automatically enforced. When security is applied to continuity, those access controls must be maintained even when your central workplaces are inaccessible.
3) Taking the transformative next step: Once you have recovery and continuity tools in place – whether you use them for migration or solely as your ongoing continuity strategy – you'll be in a better position to support innovation and take the next step in your continuous transformation journey. A baseline recovery strategy and a tested plan for continuity also provide peace of mind as you pursue other digital transformation and modernization projects like serverless computing and automated processes.
Given what’s at stake, business continuity is not only vital to protect an organization against downtime and security threats but can also enhance and even speed up overall digital transformation efforts. IT organizations that make it a priority will benefit many times over.
Thomas Burns is Co-founder, Chief Technology Officer at Lunavi (formerly Green House Data).