High availability now within budget reach

High availability should not be viewed as a luxury but rather as a required, affordable business enabler.
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The first question to ask in any high availability discussion is what are the key benefits of high availability (HA) for full system, application and data protection?

The common sense answer is, of course, the elimination of system downtime, which negatively impacts sales, service, operations, productivity, and ultimately reputation.

But can HA protect from disaster – planned or otherwise?

HA protects systems, applications and data. It provides continuous replication, server monitoring and automated failover to help minimise system downtime and data loss.

It is not only a powerful business tool as an on-premises solution but is optimal for MSPs that want to capture recurring revenue from hosting, cloud business continuity and disaster recovery (DR) managed services. The combination of remote management, application-aware deployment and a unified management console makes it easy to deploy, manage and maintain maximisation of productivity and profitability.

The dramatic drop in HA infrastructure costs has put the business continuity plans of many organisations at an inflection point.

It improves overall system and data protection and enhances the time and capability needed for system application, and/or data recovery. It also means virtualisation can be used with confidence; in fact, to the point of being able to mix and match platforms.

HA unquestionably improves business continuity and DR protection, while reducing the risk of overall system downtime and data loss. Successful HA should provide no application downtime or data loss, while at the same time enabling the ability to quickly test the DR plan. The latter is crucial to the determination of the continuation of business in the event of a disaster, and the calculation of the time required for recovery.

Then, of course, you must factor in full system high availability, cloud integration, such as with Amazon’s EC2, and assured recovery for DR testing along with encryption and virtualisation support – HA provides comprehensive data protection.

Is it all a bed of HA roses or are there challenges?

The biggest HA plan typically uses a combination of replication and server heartbeat technology to keep IT systems at a remote location synchronised with applications in the primary data centre.

In the past, this meant dedicated high-bandwidth networks between two physical locations and redundant copies of server, storage and networking hardware, with specialised applications and operating software. The cost of this redundancy has in the past put HA out of the reach of smaller organisations.

Today, low-cost, high-bandwidth networks are ubiquitous, to the point of being a business necessity. In addition, a wide variety of service providers make it simple to spin up virtual servers on demand at very low cost. These infrastructure advances now mean HA technology is available to more organisations at a much more modest price tag.

The dramatic drop in HA infrastructure costs has put the business continuity plans of many organisations at an inflection point. Uncoordinated, often overlapping backup solutions abound in the data centre. Companies that have relied on backup and recovery for business continuity probably find these ‘siloed’ solutions are a maintenance nightmare that not only drain productivity, but more importantly, dramatically complicate DR.

Modern HA solutions offer a universal approach to business continuity that lowers the cost of data protection, simplifies DR, and eliminates data loss and downtime.

HA technology is no longer the complex, obscure approach to business continuity it once was. Large corporations have been using high availability techniques to protect their most critical business applications for years.

The technology is both tried and tested, and is widely accepted as a standard disaster avoidance tool.

It is simple, repeatable, measureable and automated. Technologies such as continuous data protection, replication and automated failover and failback are critical.

What’s the bottom line on HA?

The maturation of HA products has brought the price within reach of small and mid-market companies. This, combined with lower infrastructure costs, broadband/server virtualisation, multiple service providers and dramatically improved usability, have all resulted in HA becoming a very real business continuity alternative for organisations of all sizes.

In conclusion, a wide variety of solutions are available that promise to improve DR, but if they don’t eliminate exposure, they’re not HA.

To put it bluntly, any business continuity approach that can’t make the claim of no downtime and no data loss is not HA and needs to be rethought.

Driaan Odendaal

Driaan Odendaal is technical lead at Arcserve Southern Africa. He has worked in the ICT industry for more than 13 years and has extensive experience in consulting, architecture and design.

Odendaal previously joined CA Southern Africa in the role of Arcserve presales consultant for the Southern Africa and Africa region. In 2015, his role expanded to include technical support for Arcserve solutions, as well as sales and presales.

In 2018, following the launch of Arcserve Southern Africa, a move that hailed a new era in the company’s relationship with African markets, he was appointed technical lead.

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