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Business Continuity

Not many years ago when a business wanted to find the ways to prepare itself against disaster and ensure business continuity should catastrophe strike, the bulk of the organization's time, money, and effort would be spent on ways that disasters could (hopefully) be avoided altogether. Often the outcome of an organization's search for ways to protect their most critical business applications (in order to shore up their business continuity if disaster hit), was that they found they could potentially avoid harm through the use of redundant data lines. As news of this information spread, it did not take long before the words "disaster" and "recovery" were replaced by "continuity" and "resumption."

While a small percentage of corporate entities were still dedicated to disaster recovery as one way of maintaining business continuity, the bulk of the focus was placed on disaster avoidance. Over the last several years however, that paradigm has shifted and a new kind of disaster preparation has replaced that type of thinking. Avoidance is a great idea in theory, but cannot always be reproduced in real life.

The horrific events of 9/11 brought into sharp focus the short comings and inadequacies of the idea of avoidance plans as preparation. The urgent need to regain business continuity after the disaster, and the inability of many businesses to be able to gain access to their normal critical business functions were a wakeup call for corporations everywhere to re-evaluate the plans they had previously put in place to mitigate such events. 9/11 made many organizations realize the vast inadequacy of their current plans as they saw the heavy price paid by many organizations for their unwitting vulnerability. Attempting to avoid disaster was a good place to start, but now organizations realized that they must prepare for unavoidable circumstances as well.

Connectivity / WAN Redundancy

One of the most common areas of vulnerability for organizations when a disaster strikes is the loss of their WAN connectivity. Earthquakes, floods, and acts of war can certainly disrupt the use of an organization's data lines. But loss of WAN connectivity can happen even without a major catastrophe. Much simpler threats such as the accidental cutting of data lines or equipment failure can have the same devastating net result on connectivity. Whether the cause is a construction mishap from the new building next door, or the effects of a far more serious event like a flood, fire, or terrorist attack, if an organization loses their connectivity their business continuity is often lost as well, and they are functionally in a state of disaster.

The loss of WAN connectivity can have serious consequences for an organization's daily business activities. Emails, financial transactions, ERP/CRM systems, order placement and processing, are just a few of the critical operations affected by WAN connectivity. If connectivity is lost these activities can be severely slowed or halted altogether until data lines can be recovered. Thus, having a functioning WAN system is critical for productive business operation and should be an integral part of any disaster recovery plan.

There are several methods available for organizations who want to ensure a high availability of WAN connectivity as part of their disaster recovery plan. The earliest techniques used to back up data lines were complex and cumbersome. They used multiple data lines that were connected to a programmable router. Complex programming allowed data to be passed over multiple connections which helped reduce vulnerability to a single line and helped protect against backbone failure. This technique, though far from streamlined, was better than no back-up system at all and did help maintain at least some business continuity.

Since that time the technology has evolved and a more elegant technique is available. This new technique involves the use of intelligent devices that can handle multiple data lines of different speeds from multiple providers simultaneously. These devices, called Router Clustering Devices, intelligently detect if a line, component or service is failing and then proceed to switch the flow of data to other available and working lines. These advancements provide better protection for an organization's data flow. They reduce the potential mess of disaster recovery and in turn increase business continuity when disasters do happen without the complexity and awkwardness of the old system.


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