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“Deja Vu?” or “Have We Learned Our Lesson?”

Hurricane Matthew as of 2pm on Oct 4th

Hurricane Matthew as of 2pm on Oct 4th

As of this blog post, Hurricane Matthew is churning through the western Caribbean with a projected path eerily similar to Superstorm Sandy in 2012. In its wake, Sandy left a path of destruction up the East Coast and deep into New England with many families and businesses still in the process of rebuilding. Small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) up and down the eastern seacoast were crippled by flooding, loss of infrastructure, and extended Internet and power outages; many were unable to recover.

Could this be a devastating Deja Vu, or did we learn our lesson?

Have you ensured that your information services and data will survive the next storm? Do you know how quickly your business can recover if (more like when) the next storm hits?

Path of Superstorm Sandy in 2012

Path of Hurricane Sandy in 2012

These questions feel more pressing as our next potential big storm churns towards Florida.

Good. Better. Best.

Your “Good” strategy is Backup. Ensure that you back up all of your critical data. Backups should be off site to a service that lets you restore to new systems quickly and efficiently.

Your “Better” strategy is Recovery. In addition to backups, ensure you have the ability to recovery quickly to new systems or to a temporary data center. When your  Return to Operations (RTO) time lets you continue running your business without significant impact to you or your customers, your recovery plan is sound.

Your “Best” strategy is ResilienceYour business is resilient when you can continue running your business with minimal disruption and with little or no inconvenience to your customers, regardless of the weather outside. By placing key applications and services in the cloud, your business can continue to run whether or not your office is open. With Internet access and a browser, your team can connect and work. And while you still may have some aspects of your IT running on premise, a solid cloud strategy keeps critical systems available and operating.

Resiliency Roadmap

For most SMBs, you should consider having the following services hosted or in the cloud. Depending on your applications and needs, you can use Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions or host your applications on cloud/hosted servers with virtual/remote desktops.

  • Communications
    • Email / Calendar / Contacts
    • Telephony — cloud/hosted Voice over IP (VoIP)
    • Messaging / Voice & Video Conferencing
  • Collaboration
    • File Storage & Sharing
    • Productivity Tools (document, spreadsheet, presentation editors)
  • Key Business Apps
    • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
    • Account / Finance
    • Service / Support
    • Others …

Creating a Resilient business requires strategic thinking, advanced planning, and solid execution. This is especially true when you have integrated applications and systems that you cannot change in isolation. At a high level, the roadmap is:

  1. Identify the applications and services
  2. Prioritize all applications and services based on the impact in the event of a service outage. Look outward and inward, remembering to consider customer impact.
  3. Starting with your highest priority applications and systems, evaluate if your level or protection: Backup, Recovery, or Resilient protection.
  4. Identify and implement solutions that take you from Backup to Recovery, from Recovery to Resilience, or from Backup all the way to Resilience.
  5. Repeat as you move through your prioritized list.

While you may not have time to make your business Resilient before Hurricane Matthew works its way up the coast, you have options to improve your backups and your ability to recover that can be implemented within hours rather than days and weeks. Think about the value of keeping your business running and ensuring its survival. Act now.


Contact us immediately if you want assistance with your backup, recovery, or resiliency services.


 

Cloud Outages: Which Provider has 3 of the 10 biggest so far in 2014?

crn-logo
CRN Magazine recently published a list of the 10 biggest and most impactful cloud service outages so far in 2010.  Outages happen.  Every vendor has, or will have, an outage at some point in time.  The severity of outages and how well a vendor communicates and recovers, however, point to underlying quality of service issues.

According to CRN, Microsoft’s Lync outage on June 23rd, Exchange outage on June 24th, and no-ip.com seizure outages starting June 30th represent 3 of the 10 biggest outages so far this calendar year.

Click here to see the full list.

 

 

All Cloud Computing SLAs are Not Equal

SLA’s, or Service Level Agreements, establish provider commitments for service performance, availability, and reliability.  When considering online services, understanding the SLA can make a world of difference.

For Google Apps Premier and Education Editions, Google offers a 99.9% availability SLA for the core services.  This is based on an expectation of no downtime at all, not even for scheduled maintenance.

For Microsoft’s Exchange Online service, the 99.9% availability SLA seems comparable, but it only covers downtime outside of scheduled maintenance windows.

The difference is important since scheduled maintenance can still impact your business.

So far in August 2010, there have been two (2) scheduled maintenance windows on Saturdays, running from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM EDT.   These maintenance windows easily impact businesses that operate on Saturday, as the windows extend through the morning until mid-afternoon.  And yet, they do not count against the SLAs as they were “scheduled”.

A quick check of  Microsoft’s Online Service Notification feed indicates at least six (6) unscheduled outages Exchange Online over the first 23 days in August.  While outages do count towards the SLAs and may result in credits, having a more reliable service is preferred.

Microsoft BPOS Outages: Cloud vs. Hosted Server

Last week, Microsoft experienced several outages of its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).   As ZDNet noted, with so few users, nobody really noticed (as opposed to every Google performance  or service issue making headlines).

In our opinion, the outage tells a much more important story — the difference between a hosted server and a cloud-based solution.  MS BPOS runs as hosted servers on shared physical servers.  In effect, Microsoft is installing their servers on hardware the same way you would install them as virtual servers on shared hardware.  Microsoft is honest in that none of the services run in a replicated or redundant way.  With the exception of email, for which users should be able to send, receive and access 30 days history, if your virtual server or physical server has troubles, you are out of luck.

The implications are serious.  Without redundant services or data, any failure puts you, the customer, at risk for data loss.  Imagine a server failure that corrupts an underlying SharePoint database.  Access to documents, wiki’s, and other content can easily be lost.  As Microsoft offers no clear mechanism for backing up data, data you place in BPOS is likely at greater risk than keeping it on in-house systems.

Granted, Microsoft’s big customers (like Coca Cola) can negotiate for special services.  For the rest of the user community, at $120 per user per year, you would just be out of luck.

Here is a blog posting praising the virtues of BPOS and possible backup strategies.  Clearly, the author does not get it.  Why would you trust your data on a service, like Sharepoint, where after a disaster impacting your servers hosted by Microsoft, you are likely to wait 6 days to get data that is 7 days old from the point of failure?  That is effectively a 13 day gap in information.

Fundamentally, MS BPOS misses the mark.  Either Microsoft doesn’t understand the needs of businesses or they are unable of providing the level of service smart businesses require.