The roads are busier. The trains are packed again. Holiday memories – just like your tan – have faded away. With the UK firmly in winter mode, minds inevitably turn towards ‘the P-word’ – planning. Whilst November may still be crunch time for ensuring that existing Q4 initiatives are delivered on time, many of us will now be looking to 2018.
While the new year may seem a long way off, this month marks the beginning of a planning cycle – where plans begin to take shape, budgets are justified and – depending on you IT planning cycles – longer term change programmes are identified and scoped out.
A reflection on the year to date is an important stake in the ground when it comes to forward planning and helping assign budget. Security certainly looms large most corporate IT worry lists. 2017 has overtaken 2016 as the year of ransomware and it won’t be disappearing in 2018.
Another area of technology that continues to trouble enterprises and consumers alike is data availability. We’ve seen this year that companies of all shapes and sizes are not immune to the effects of downtime. Spotify, Instagram, WhatsApp and Amazon Web Services were all felled by unscheduled downtime this year.
Data shows that enterprise-size UK businesses are throwing away an average of £17.9 million every year as a result of an Availability Gap between the level of service expected and what IT can actually deliver. And financial implications aside, modern businesses simply can’t afford to hurt their own reputation thanks to consumers’ zero tolerance for downtime. Cumbersome legacy backup systems remain far too common, even amongst some of the globe’s biggest brand names.
For IT decision makers keen to implement a robust approach to date availability next year, here are four key areas to consider.
It is no longer acceptable for businesses to take the mindset that planned or unplanned downtime will not have a direct impact on vital services. The 2017 Veeam Availability Report found that more than four fifths of businesses (82 percent) are suffering an Availability Gap between user expectations and what their IT teams can deliver. The annual loss figure of £17.9 annually per organisation is up £4.7 million from 12 months ago.
Downtime and data loss result in enterprises facing public scrutiny in ways that cannot be measured on balance sheets, thanks largely to social media. Of the businesses that had suffered an outage, nearly half reported a loss in customer confidence and 42 percent experienced damage to brand integrity – which negatively affected both brand reputation and customer retention.
Delete unnecessary data
Garbage data is a recognised problem, and one that can have the biggest impact on a company’s availability. Data like this eats up resources in the data centre and can cause poor performance and system errors, so it is essential to keep non-necessary data under control.
Common culprits of this problem are installation files duplicated at several locations, as well as virtual machines that are invisible because they have been removed from the warehouse, but not permanently deleted. It’s easy to keep this data when nobody knows what it is and no-one wants to delete it in case it’s something important. However, this frame of mind is a legacy from the days when data protection and availability solutions were much less sophisticated, and restoring lost data was a cumbersome and difficult process.
Today, data recovery is much quicker, allowing you to recover what you want, when you want. So, whether you have lost a backup copy of an important piece of data or unintentionally deleted garbage data, it is much easier and quicker to restore – usually within seconds.
Time is of the essence
Another salient issue is that data recovery for any application eats up huge amounts of an enterprises’ most valuable resource – time.
Our research found that the median length of any outage is 23 minutes. This may not sound like much, but in the context where thousands of airline passengers are grounded for 23 minutes due to an outage or if a hospital can’t access critical patient data – the repercussions are damning.
Seasoned IT professionals across various industries will have war stories of system outages and the major disruptions they cause, and the fallout is becoming increasingly public. The high impact of outages and the insufficiency of legacy IT systems to ensure businesses can backup and recover data, makes it vital for execs to seek out reliable availability tools.
Unfortunately, the average number of failures in modern enterprises remains very high. In the last six months alone we’ve seen some of the world’s biggest, most popular consumer-facing services with the largest IT budgets suffer high-profile outages. So, the message is that data loss can, and probably will, happen to any business – and when it does the costs can be devastating if left unattended.
The number of enterprises using cloud services has rocketed in the last few years, rising to 78 percent in 2017 from just 57 percent back in 2013, according to research from ESG. Furthermore, our research found that 94 percent of UK organisations have digital transformation initiatives on their roadmap, with more than half of those already in process.
There’s clearly huge ambition for going digital but for many the pipedream is being blocked by basic service reliability issues. However, cloud and its various consumption models are changing the way that businesses approach data protection. Cloud is increasingly being seen as a viable springboard to their digital agenda, with software as a service investment expected to increase by over 50 percent in the next 12 months.
Indeed, our research found that over one in three UK IT leaders (39 percent) believe cloud providers can deliver better service levels for mission-critical data than their internal IT process. Investments in Backup-as-a-Service (BaaS) and Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) are expected to rise similarly as organisations combine them with cloud storage to improve data retention.
IT decision makers must get on the front foot with planning and define the areas where they can make meaningful change to their IT infrastructure in the next calendar year. Business priorities will come and go but the exponential rise in the amount of data being created by businesses will not budge. And it is for that reason that a solid data availability strategy must be top of the list for 2018. As we’ve seen, even the biggest businesses can be affected by data outages and IT failures. If alarm bells are ringing having read this, make availability your number one priority.