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How IT Managers Are Learning to Expect the Unexpected in 2020

Simon O'Sullivan, senior vice president of Maxava, reflects on lessons learned from unexpected events and how to prepare your IBM i environment for disaster recovery in the cloud.

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I think we can all agree that 2020 has been an extraordinary year so far and one in which many IT managers have had to put their disaster recovery (DR) plans into action. Many IT sites develop their DR plans and then tuck them away in a bottom drawer, hoping they will never be required. Sometimes, these plans are never fully tested and are put together just to tick the box.

This year, however, we’ve seen the issue of DR for IBM i elevated to the executive level and discussed in the boardroom at most companies as businesses navigate their way ahead. Plans have been quickly put into action and any gaps have been plugged on the go. 

Expand Your Thinking for the Unexpected

Expert guidance says you should consider the worst possible scenarios when constructing your business continuity plan, and I believe this is the most important lesson to be distilled from the events of 2020. Expect the unexpected and plan accordingly. 

IBM i businesses have become very dependent on the availability of their data and IT resources, so it stands to reason that every threat that could lead to an outage or data loss should be considered and planned for. While the events of this year couldn’t have been foreseen, we can all carry our experiences ahead with us into the years to come.         

IT Lessons Learned From 2020

So, what have we learned so far from this tumultuous year? First and foremost, we’ve seen that cloud technology has worked well, and key IBM i verticals such as finance, banking and manufacturing have become more open to the cloud model. Cloud-based offerings quickly facilitated work-from-home requirements when they became necessary. 

Secondly, organizations that had robust DR plans in place had a competitive advantage. For example, if a business was replicating its data in real time between two locations, then it had the flexibility to run business operations from either site. 

The company also had the redundancy in case one site should suffer an equipment failure. Equipment failure itself isn’t an especially rare occurrence, but when supply chains are under pressure, a failure can develop into a major outage. Recovering from one fixed location on a single server is fraught with challenges and something that most modern businesses should avoid. It can only lead to extended business downtime and data loss.

Always Ready With Business Continuity

Business continuity planning is all about being ready. As the saying goes, “Forewarned is forearmed.” DR can’t just be a compulsory exercise; it’s now front and center at the executive level. Business leaders and CEOs are having to navigate a new landscape.

In a Gartner business continuity webinar in early March, just 12% of more than 1,500 respondents believed their businesses were highly prepared for the sorts of disruptions we’ve seen. 

If these disruptions have had any positive impact, it’s that they have increased the speed at which businesses are adopting certain technologies so they can be more prepared for potential future challenges. Remote monitoring of IT systems to facilitate tech teams working from home and enhanced data replication strategies are among these.            

Revising DR Plans for the Cloud

As businesses review their DR plans, they should consider Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) or Cloud DR, both of which are growing quickly and becoming very affordable. Traditional DR requires the duplication of hardware and network infrastructure, and this needs to be located at a safe distance from the main production site. As you can imagine, it can be costly to maintain a redundant IBM i server in a state-of-the-art data center just in case you may need it someday.    

Selecting an externally managed and monitored DRaaS service option to the cloud means IBM i clients don’t need to invest large amounts of money as an initial capital expenditure. They can focus on running their core business and don’t need to worry about data loss and downtime.        

Robust DR planning and utilization of the cloud are now recognized as critical considerations, and ones that DRaaS is perfectly positioned to address. 

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