Monday, 28 September 2015

IT System Outages - an inevitability ?

Looking back over the past few years there have been some very high profile outages affecting Ebay, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, to name but a few. Such outages are inevitable, simply because IT is dependent on so many factors - many outwith the control of the provider. The challenge however is getting people to accept this! In the past there was a tolerance to such events - the mere mention of a system being unavailable now makes twitter within minutes.

At the University we work hard to provide services with high availability, however from time to time we will suffer from outages.  This can be as a result of many things including human error, equipment failure, malicious acts or a power outage. What worries me most is that people have become so dependent on IT within their business processes they can no longer function without it. This is not a good position to be in especially if you consider it from a business continuity perspective. Even with resilient infrastructure, backup power and a variety of other measures in place to make systems resilient, failure is inevitable.

Even in high availability and mission critical applications there are so many factors that can impact an information system that even with high levels of resilience built in we have to accept at some point a system may not be available.

Part of the challenge as we all embark on digital transformation programmes is how we educate our business colleagues in business continuity as we cant always depend on the information system being available. A mixture of sourcing strategies can help this by adopting cloud and hybrid solutions, implementing resilient internet connectivity and having robust change controls. IT leaders have been traditionally measured on uptime, availability and integrity of systems and to this end try very very hard to achieve as near to 100% as possible. Whether a further measure of how quick we can respond to outages would be useful remains to be seen.

With such a significant migration to cloud based services a whole new area is emerging, perhaps a re-badging of previous similar solutions, which look at service continuity where a cloud service becomes unavailable. Today I have been reviewing the market for email continuity services. Where in the past we might have looked at solutions which involved DR services or the bringing to site a portacabin full of equipment we now look to the Cloud to secure another Cloud service.

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