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A corporate lifeline for internet operations
As companies start to invest and rely more upon e-business systems, there is an onus to protect them from potential disasters and outages. There is a need for 'e-continuity'. But to substantiate such a claim, perhaps we ought to consider recent developments that have led to today's intense interest in e-commerce.
history of e-commerce
n E-mail - faster version of mail to place orders, queries, etc
n EDI I - where customers could place orders with suppliers electronically
n EDI II - The next step where customers could access supplier's databases to verify their ability to fulfil orders prior to plac ing them, or where information, software patches, etc could be downloaded
Rise and change in Internet
use for commerce
However, in recent months, use of the Internet as a proper commercial entity has been eagerly received and the analysts predict that this interest is unlikely to wane. If anything the indicators are that the trend towards e-commerce is set to explode dramatically in the next few years as the research findings by Goldman Sachs and IDC illustrate:
nOn-line brokerage will rise by 40-50% until 2002 (Goldman Sachs)
n On-line banking could climb by 35-40% until 2002 (Goldman Sachs)
n 63 million people will have access to the Internet in Western Europe by 2002 (IDC)
n e-commerce will be worth $223bn by 2002 (IDC)
n SME's will see a threefold increase in spend on IT from 1.5% to 4.5% of turnover by 2002 (IDC)
Thus business reliance upon the Internet has graduated as usage has moved from billboard to worldwide retail banking outlet. With 24x7x52 opening hours and unparalleled visibility, this electronic high street is not limited to consumers or clients within your traditional geographic domains. Anyone with Internet access is a potential customer (for we can stumble upon sites as much as we can actively seek them).
This being the case, if your Internet shop is closed for even the shortest period of time, there are repercussions in terms of lost sales, inability to trade, loss of reputation, damage to brand image and depleted share value. Something that eBay Inc. discovered to its cost when $5 billion were wiped from its market value following a 21 hour period of system downtime.
It stands to reason therefore that Internet operations require an approach to continuity planning beyond traditional disaster recovery thinking. An Internet presence is global and constantly visible. It requires continuity arrangements that recognise this and ensure zero downtime. It needs e-continuity".
"E-continuity!" - a definition
The sad reality, however, is that in many respects contingency arrangements for Internet operations are sadly lacking - always a problem with emergent technologies compared to their legacy cousins. The world wide web may be likened to the wild wild west in terms of its preparation and provision for disaster. By thinking in terms of e-continuity, you can keep the cowboys and your web-facing business on different sides of the canyon.
So how does e-continuity differ to more traditional recovery methods and what does it entail?
Disaster Recovery Versus
n Waiting for back-up tapes to be delivered from off-site storage and subsequently restored
n Establishing exact point of failure in data and transactions
n Re-keying data lost since last back-up
Enter e-continuity, which shifts conventional thinking to a model which ensures availability for mission critical Internet processes. It challenges businesses to review standard recovery strategies because the needs of Internet activities are so immediate. Hence, the new thinking requires:
n Zero downtime, not just back-up & restore
n Continuous, as well as high, availability
n Segmentation of web-facing IT and busi ness processes from remainder of business infrastructure
n Technical models that place Internet activ- ities to the fore.
n CATS, SRDF, MIMIX, DataMirror, Legato /
n Vinca product range, database or hardware replication tools
n Diverse routing of 'thick' Internet pipes from ISPs
Web-site monitoring for early detection and notification of problems (such as 'Safetynet') Future solutions will include multi-homing and triangulation of ISPs in order to effect benefits such as:
n The elimination and reduction of single points of failure
n Reduced communications costs
n Improved resilience
n Reduced support costs
Is outsourcing a way
forward for e-commerce / e-continuity?
For e-continuity to be truly successful, it depends upon the ability of the recovery provider to view each scenario on its own merits and devise tailored solutions that meet the real business requirement behind the need for e-continuity. This may mean employing leading edge high availability solutions for web-facing or highly time-sensitive aspects of the business, whilst incorporating more traditional approaches for other facets of the organisation.
Whatever the specific requirements of your organisation to protect its e-commerce activities one thing is certain. With appropriate e-continuity provision, those incidents that lead to failure of your competitor's Internet operations and perhaps their business, will not mean likewise for you!
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