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Business continuity in bad weather

Business continuity in bad weather
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

As the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the swiftest change to our day-to-day lifestyles in living memory, it has become clear that the digital transformation which companies have, across sectors and across the world, been pursuing for some years has also given them essential resilience and flexibility which is helping them to weather this storm.

About the author

Kristian Kerr, Vice President, EMEA Partner Organisation, NetApp.

Faced with the demand to rapidly fire up the capacity to support thousands of remote workers who didn’t exist just days before, organisations at all stages of digital transformation have been leaning on the scalability of cloud services to keep business ticking over. At the same time, teams which have previously been entirely on-site suddenly needing access to vital data from wherever they happen to be means that the flow of data from on-prem to off-prem to hybrid and public cloud has needed to be faster than ever before.

The pandemic has, of course, posed an enormous challenge for businesses across sectors, but the fact that we are still finding ways to work in the midst of it is testament to years of hard work by people implementing the next generation of IT systems. At the same time, we have learned which elements of an IT strategy are most important for preparing a business to respond quickly to the unexpected.

Resilient data management

While disruption to business processes is, by its nature, unpredictable, smart data management will assume disruption will happen at some point down the line. Whether the challenge is due to a pandemic, political uncertainty, or local weather conditions does not make a difference from a data perspective; either way, you need to know IT operations can keep running and data can be kept safe.

Immediate remote access to data and the ability to clearly assess the data environment are, of course, key to this. Being able to understand what is happening with your data and business apps from anywhere in the world means you can build redundancy into your operations. Systems should also be built with reliability and manageability in mind: remote oversight is only useful if error rates are manageable and if any errors found can also be corrected remotely.

Elastic workforce enablement

Once equipped with a robust approach to data, businesses also need to ensure that workers can utilize that data. In the current environment, that has meant provisioning employees with the tools and access they need to work from home – and in the future, many companies will have further work to do in order to allow workers to move fluidly between the office, their homes, and remote sites as conditions dictate.

Hybrid cloud approaches offer significant benefits in this aspect, supporting virtualization through virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) applications to enable access to on premise systems with the ability to shift storage to the cloud where necessary for scalability. Using hybrid cloud tools to optimize VDI shared storage resources across vendors and regions helps keep applications such as Windows Virtual Desktop, Citrix, and VMWare Horizon responsive while maintaining data oversight.

Cybercrime risk reduction

Unfortunately, when disruption happens it’s not just a challenge for IT operations to keep business running smoothly; it’s also an opportunity for malicious actors to find new ways of attacking organisations. Even for a well-prepared business, rapid changes to ways of working are chaotic – when workers quickly adopt new and unfamiliar tools and processes it can be more difficult to spot unusual or suspicious events. The result is a marked increase in phishing attacks, ransomware, industrial espionage, and other cybersecurity threats.

When businesses can no longer make assumptions about where data is likely to be accessed from, a proactive end-to-end security posture is vital. This is, again, built on the foundation of remote access and insight: if you can attain a thorough overview of and control over where your data resides, tools can be applied to understand what it is doing and how it is moving, and early interventions can be made on potential security threats.

Network expertise availability

Perhaps the most important thing, however, is building strong relationships with vendors and suppliers to help you respond quickly and effectively where problems arise. I’ve seen first-hand how our channel partners have moved heaven and earth to keep their customers running during these difficult times, and if this experience has taught us anything it’s that we have to lean on one another when times get tough. From finding innovative ways to fulfill technology requirements to agreeing new financing terms to help minimize job losses, there has been incredible work happening in IT over the last few months.

Networking has never been more vital than it is right now. Behind the capacity to work remotely there lies a complex web of companies, adding value and supporting one another to deliver effective systems to end users. At times like these, it’s really important vendors, partners, resellers, distributors, and end-users keep working together and help businesses continue to operate in the face of adversity.