Downtime 'no longer an option'
In an increasingly demanding market, enterprises across the board can no longer afford downtime or interrupted services, says Wayne Botha, IT manager of MediSwitch.
"No matter what business you are in, downtime isn't an option - particularly from a consumer point of view. Consumers expect things to simply work - if they don't, they will take their business elsewhere," he says.
The same applies to IT services supplied to enterprises. MediSwitch, a Bytes Technology Group subsidiary delivering electronic healthcare transaction services, has service level agreements (SLAs) guaranteeing 99.95% uptime with some of its customers. This amounts to only seven minutes a day in downtime.
The environment MediSwitch works in depends on constant uptime to enable more than 100 million electronic healthcare transactions a year. Facilitating the submission of claims from healthcare service providers to pharmaceutical suppliers and medical aid scheme administrators, MediSwitch processes around eight million claims totalling more than R4 billion a month.
"Any downtime would mean either claims would not be received, causing inconvenience for those who have to resubmit them, or they would not be properly processed, resulting in extra resources needed to do so," says Botha. "Downtime would also mean reputational damage," he adds.
Amid increasing pressure to ensure it maintained uninterrupted services, MediSwitch reassessed its data recovery capabilities, which had a lengthy switchover period of up to four hours. The company removed its traditional disaster recovery (DR) component, elevated its second site to a real-time system, and implemented Oracle's Golden Gate for the replication of data in heterogeneous data environments. By running two sites simultaneously, it has been able to ensure near 100% uptime. With its new implementation of Oracle database appliances, MediSwitch is now also able to patch its entire technology stack in a single downtime slot, so reducing this element of downtime. "Previously, we had to have three distinct downtime slots requiring three distinct skills sets," he says.
While there were initial systems adjustments needed to ensure completeness of data and no duplication, Botha believes the solution MediSwitch is using would benefit most high-demand computing environments.
"This elevated us from traditional DR to a high-availability situation. We have had unparalleled uptime for the past two years, and met all our SLAs," says Botha.
Botha will address the upcoming ITWeb Business Continuity Summit on MediSwitch's DR transition to enable high availability. He will outline the systems used, as well as the implementation, challenges and outcomes. For more information about this event, click here.