High Availability Server Solutions

Until recently, high availability solutions for SME business running servers and in house ICT were uneconomical to deliver, with the costs outweighing the return on investment. Now that high availability is dramatically easier to use and less expensive to own and manage, the landscape has changed.  Small and mid-sized companies can now afford the “luxury” of real-time high availability solutions and offsite data protection. Fortunately, this shift is occurring just as downtime is causing more of a disruption and expense to businesses than ever before. With technology costs dropping and downtime costs skyrocketing, companies of all sizes have a huge incentive to evaluate high availability technology.

 

Factors of High Availability;

There are two key factors when assessing the requirements of any business ICT solution and the need for High Availability.

  1. The cost to the business of being without their systems for a length of time. These costs are not just limited to the loss of business, a company may endure if they cannot produce or ship products, but also the non-tangible losses relating to brand impact and perception of quality from customers.
  2. The direct costs from implementing a High Availability hardware and software solution that mitigates these risks to the business. These costs are directly related to the hardware topology and solution deployed and the levels of availability required in de-risking the business. The more the risk is mitigated the more the costs will be but the less the impact of planned or unplanned downtime will be on the business.

 

In understanding these factors and working with the business risks are identified, quantified and valued providing a risk profile. From this risk profile the business must then decide the levels of technology and amount of money they are willing to invest to mitigate the risks identified and consequently the amount of downtime to the business.

Key industry terminology for assessing these factors of risk and consequential loss within a business are Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO). These two factors are the most important parameters of a disaster recovery or data protection plan. These objectives guide the enterprises to choose an optimal data backup / availability (rather restore) plan based on risk and cost of mitigation.

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At the low end of the disaster recovery (DR) spectrum is tape backup (basic availability) and at the high end is high availability (HA), which rapidly moves users and processes to a fully mirrored secondary server for it to assume all or most of the functions of the production server.

Unfortunately, the perception of many mid-size and small companies is that HA technology is so much more expensive than basic disaster recovery protection that it is considered “out of reach” in terms of both cost and complexity. But, in line with most other computing technologies, the range of options between the most basic DR protection and the high-end, fault tolerant, enterprise-scale solutions have increased and, overall, the cost of all the options has come down, radically in some cases.

 

Opportunities to Deliver High Availability;

Several factors have contributed to the “implementation opportunity” of high availability / disaster recovery solutions within SME businesses.

  1. Decreasing costs of hardware – machines are now packing more power for costs and buying a second machine is considerable less than a few years ago.
  2. Communication Costs – Many companies wisely choose to locate their backup server at an alternate site or an offsite cloud provider. The good news is that the cost of communications and bandwidth has greatly reduced allowing more companies to take this is a viable route forward.
  3. Cost of HA software has changed in general, as the state of the art has moved forward, HA software products now offer all the core features needed by small and medium sized businesses, at prices significantly below those for software with the extended, high-end features that only the largest, enterprise-scale companies need. In other words, HA software is no longer “One-size-fits-all” in design or price.
  4. Cost of Downtime – Every hour that a system is unavailable—whether from planned or unplanned events— causes significant costs to be incurred to a business…often far more than you think.  By understanding the numbers, you can get a general idea of the total annual direct and indirect cost of downtime and the costs of resolving this.

 

Conclusion;It is a fortunate change of events for smaller companies that the powerful business continuity technology of high availability is no longer reserved for the largest enterprises. Because of dropping hardware and communications costs, the decreased cost of HA software, and a host of self-healing and self-managing capabilities making HA simple to run, plus new options to purchase HA as a cost-per-month service, thousands of companies that used to precariously rely on tape backups as their sole disaster recovery strategy can now easily acquire more robust, full featured HA and DR protection, for far less than ever before.