For businesses, the world has never been as fraught with risk as it is right now. The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed how we work and do business, and for some industries, it’s shut them down altogether. And even as we deal with the fallout from the pandemic, we can’t forget that other threats have not gone away — climate change and the natural disasters it can unleash are as real as ever, and cybercriminals have certainly not furloughed themselves during the pandemic.
Because of the immense risk present throughout the business environment, companies need to ask themselves what they can do to ensure that their business will stay functional through a crisis. Given the state of the economy, the stakes have never been higher. Falling victim to a large ransomware attack right now could spell the end of many businesses while cash flow and credit markets are tight.
While companies are struggling to regain their bearings in the midst of all this change, there is some good news: Disaster recovery and business continuity tools available today are more powerful than they’ve ever been, and if implemented correctly, they can safeguard data and allow businesses to continue operations through almost any “black swan” event.
The Application Mobility Evolution
In the past, disaster recovery was only as good as the “recovery” part. Businesses would back up their data on a disaster recovery (DR) file, and when a disaster occurred, there would be mountains of data to sort through in order to retrieve what was lost at exactly the right point in time. This process was inefficient and resource-intensive — to the point that it could be more expensive than the lost data itself.
Today these restoration techniques are a relic of the past (or at least they should be). We’re evolving in the network from SD-WAN toward SD-LAN (software-defined local area networks) and in the business continuity space from DR to application mobility. Application Mobility enables us to build applications that are modular and portable, creating a ubiquitous safety net for data in the event of a disaster.
Where Do Your Applications Currently Live?
To create a business continuity plan in the age of application mobility, first businesses need to determine where their data and applications will live to best serve their end users — will it live on-premises, in a data center or in the public cloud?
Once they do that, they can employ tools to ensure workloads are supported and made instantly portable. Businesses using multiple clouds and data centers should deploy a hypervisor strategy that allows for application and data storage uniformity across different locations and clouds. This uniformity provides real-time survivability, allowing businesses to instantly move applications between locations.
Are You Developing Containers?
Cloud-native development of new applications is crucial to creating app mobility as the cloud allows for portability to move apps wherever you need to if a crisis strikes. However, keep in mind that containers often do not work well with legacy applications, so containers and virtual machines will need to coexist at least for the next several years. The painful process of reworking your applications into containers or another baseline hypervisor is the key to unlocking all this application mobility.
Even before COVID-19, companies were becoming increasingly distributed enterprises. Remote work was becoming common, and even the office-based workforce was increasingly mobile — working from vehicles, at home and while traveling. While a boon for productivity, mobility brings unique challenges to companies when faced with a disaster — namely, with a dispersed network it becomes more complicated to anticipate where resources are needed, and in the case of a security event or disaster, it becomes even more complicated.
Enabling application mobility lies in the expansion of an application-aware network, from SD-WAN to SD-LAN. These networks can follow applications as they move to ensure users have optimized access to their applications from data center to the edge. Combining both SDDC (software-defined data center), SD-WAN and SD-LAN technologies creates fluidity in networks that allows these dynamic changes to track and report on end user quality of experience.
So, whether those end users need to access an application in Portland or Miami, they can move that application to where it best fits for that user. The result is mobile networks and applications, and in a crisis, that instant mobility can save businesses.
Cloudification At The Speed Of 5G
Cloudification of the network is also rising — a natural progression given the rise of the 5G world. The software-defined aspect of the network today allows us to spin up (or cloudify) different pieces of the network that can accommodate the need for speed and device proliferation that 5G promises. In cases where businesses lose vast amounts of data, this gives companies the ability to retrieve what was lost rapidly and reliably if they have the ability to cloudify the experience for the end user.
Here are some business continuity/disaster recovery plan best practices for businesses to keep in mind:
- Have your business-critical applications coded in a common hypervisor or container technology that supports multiple public clouds.
- Decide on an underlying storage method that supports multilocation virtualization.
- Make the business continuity plan a feature of your application mobility strategy.
- Strive for efficiency and reporting of end user quality of experience.
- Make every effort to have all this management under one user interface.
Application mobility is the new business continuity. When faced with a crisis or security event, it’s crucial that businesses can recover data and move their applications to where they’re needed instantly. If you don’t already have a plan in place, it’s recommended that you speak with an expert and begin formulating one today. Developing protocols and mapping out where your applications and data are housed (and where they would need to move in a crisis) is critical. If you already have a plan in place, revisit it frequently to ensure it’s up to date and effective.
This article was originally featured in Forbes.