White Paper: Cloud Solutions for Continuity

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1 White Paper: Cloud Solutions for Continuity 2014, igroup ltd. All rights reserved. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY DISCLAIMER This white paper is for informational purposes only and is provided as is with no warranties whatsoever including any warranty of merchantability, fitness for any particular purpose, or any warranty otherwise arising out of any proposal, specification, or sample. No license, express or implied, to any intellectual property rights is granted or intended hereby. Igroup Ltd disclaim all liability, including liability for infringement of proprietary rights, relating to implementation of information in this specification. Igroup Ltd do not warrant or represent that such implementation(s) will not infringe such rights. Product or company names mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

2 Contents Background... 3 About igroup Ltd Planning Disaster Recovery... 5 Key Considerations... 5 Methods of Data Storage... 6 Local Storage... 6 Central Storage... 7 Cloud Storage... 8 Cloud Solutions... 9 Cloud Integration with Workflow... 9 Conclusions

3 Background There is a widely quoted statistic that states: 80% of businesses affected by a major incident close within 18 months. This is somewhat of an oversimplification. It would be more accurate to state that: Of businesses without a detailed business continuity plan, 80% fail within a period of 18 months following a major incident involving serious data loss. As companies become more and more reliant on robust IT solutions in order to run effectively, the impact of any server problems can have a substantial impact on productivity and the ability of an organisation to run effectively. A business continuity plan is a fundamental requirement for companies in order to ensure that recovery from a major incident is possible. There are many different points of failure in a modern organisation, and a large number of risks that need to be considered. Risks to business range from natural disasters and fires that significantly damage infrastructure through to software problems or computer security issues such as viruses or hacking. A key objective of continuity is minimising the length of time that a business is unable to operate. In this white paper, our focus is to look at the impact of different methods of data storage on the ability of a business to recover following a major incident which would result in data loss. Alongside these requirements, there is the secondary requirement for any continuity support technology to be comprehensively adopted within an organisation to ensure that all required data is stored and can be recovered in the event of major technical problems. 3

4 About igroup Ltd. igroup is an ISO 9001 certified organisation and a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner with our specialist competency in SharePoint. The SharePoint services we offer include development, hosting, consultancy, support and training. Our Managing Director, Steve Rastall has been named in Insider Magazine s Top 25 Up & Coming Entrepreneurs and we have also won a HOT 100 Fastest Growing Companies award. Since we were setup, we have at least doubled sales revenue every year via organic growth. For more information about the products and services offered by igroup ltd, please visit our website: Or contact us using the following address and telephone number:

5 Planning Disaster Recovery When normal business operations are interrupted, there is a major impact on the ability of the organisation to function, and ultimately to make profit. The reason why so many businesses affected by a major incident cease operations within a limited timespan following the incident is that the break in operations had such an impact on profitability that they were no longer able to meet their commitments. The shorter the period in which operations are suspended, the less of a long term impact a disaster will have on the business. Steps need to be taken in order to reduce length of the actual outage to below the maximum outage. Making the process of recovery more efficient should be a key goal of the disaster recovery plan. Key Considerations There are a number of elements that need to be part of the calculation when it comes to recovering from a business impacting event, and these include: Identifying the cause of the event Measuring the impact of the event Minimising the loss of information Producing a recovery plan Often, the factor that impacts most on a business ability to recovery from any type of major outage is the amount of data which is lost during the event, and how much of it can be regained. Usually, the amount of data that can be recovered is dependent on how it was stored. 5

6 Methods of Data Storage There are typically 3 ways that companies store data: Locally on individual user machines Centrally on a physical document server Remotely on a cloud server All of these have implications from a business continuity and security perspective. Local Storage In organisations where users store data locally on their own hard drive, there are a number of potential points of failure. Loss of machine through theft Data compromised or corrupted by virus or malware In addition to the above, there are also business risks associated with the lack of central control over any business critical information stored in this way and how it can be shared with any 3 rd parties with access to the device. In addition to the security and continuity concerns about this behaviour, local storage also creates barriers to collaboration and group working on content with version control over any work in progress being a particular concern for efficiency. In most cases, when data is stored locally on individual machines, any loss of that data for physical reasons (theft, fire, etc.) will be total, and recovery will not be possible. 6

7 Central Storage A conventional document server is a specialised computer used solely as a location where data can be stored in a single location with all members of an organisation having access to both their own workspace and any shared areas necessary for their role. With modern collaboration software such as Microsoft SharePoint in place, a central server can function well as a vehicle for group work, and also assist in being able to locate content on demand through a search engine. Of course, a single physical server used for all data within an organisation creates a major risk to business continuity. Unless data is regularly backed up into a secure location, a fire or systems failure that damages the server will result in almost total loss of all data held on the server. File servers have a finite lifespan (Microsoft recommend 3-5 years), but many business owners run them for longer. The lifespan of a server is determined by a number of factors including the level of software support available and usage. Servers that use software that is no longer supported with security updates are at risk of compromise, while a server with a hard drive several years old will be at a higher risk of physical failure. Either of these scenarios can create major issues for business. Best practice for any document or file server is to take regular snapshot back-ups of all the information that is stored and for this back up to be hosted in a separate location for safety. The amount of data that can be recovered in the event of an incident will be entirely dependent on the frequency with which it is backed up. 7

8 Cloud Storage Cloud technologies use virtualisation to spread data across multiple servers. From the user s perspective the experience and mechanism of saving a document to the file server is identical to a central storage solution, however there is no single physical device that they are saving to: The immediate advantage of cloud storage is that the multiply redundant nature of the solution protects the data from any single point of failure, but there are further advantages related to security and maintenance. Cloud technology is comparatively recent. As a result, software is more secure from unauthorised access, and the physical devices that are used are newer, and less prone to individual failure. The nature of cloud hosting across multiple locations means that even in the event of a single point of failure, no data is lost in the process. This is best from a disaster recovery perspective, as the seamless data access means a far shorter recovery period, and ultimately far more limited business impact from any event. 8

9 Cloud Solutions The growth in demand for cloud back-up solutions for their data has led to an evolved market with a number of different options available including the following: DropBox Google Drive SkyDrive (Rebranding to OneDrive in 2014) Box Financial Services companies in particular may also have issues with the implications of cloud storage using the above commercial providers based on data security laws and the movement of sensitive customer data into offshore data centres. The use of large scale commercial cloud solutions can be attractive, however a fully customized private cloud environment which is controlled by the organization although managed in an external data centre is usually a better solution for businesses due to their ability to better integrate it into their standard workflow and privacy requirements. Cloud Integration with Workflow For a business that requires seamless integration of cloud technologies into their standard workflow without the need for extensive re-skilling of staff, a combination of Microsoft Technologies provides the simplest integration of cloud technology into the workflow. Microsoft s latest productivity offering Office 365 is billed as a cloud based service that offers users the familiarity of the standard Office interface and full functionality: By combining this with a SharePoint cloud installation and Azure Server, organisations can enable a fully integrated cloud environment for staff that allows: Full Security Total software integration User familiarity A key advantage of this stack solution is that Microsoft s experience in the enterprise software space means that data security compliance is central to the offering. Implementation of a SharePoint based cloud storage solution within an organisation can be achieved in a straightforward manner. Central control of the deployment and user permissions allows for the IT team within the business to allow different levels of access to staff on a role based level rather than setting permissions individually which reduces central workload. 9

10 Conclusions The success and by extension the risk of failure - for any modern business is fundamentally linked to their ability to manage technology effectively to meet their business goals. As the importance of data within organisations increases, it becomes an ever more precious commodity that must be protected in the same way as any other business critical asset. A key challenge for businesses when implementing new technologies is encouraging user adoption of those systems. Leveraging existing staff understanding of a software package (Microsoft Office), and combining this with a custom private cloud solution based on Azure and SharePoint means the multiple goals of improving data security for the business while improving user efficiency and improving can be achieved together. For more information about how igroup can help your organisation to implement cloud solutions using SharePoint and other Microsoft Products, please contact us on: Alternatively, for more information about our services, please visit our website: 10

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