GUEST NOTE: Degraded connectivity and application outages are the bane of all digitally transformed businesses, but cost-effective workarounds exist.
While midsize businesses are known to “operate in a different environment than large enterprises,” they have no fewer requirements for resiliency and availability.
Businesses of all sizes have undergone profound digital transformations in recent years. Increased reliance on digital systems, cloud and internet infrastructure – and direct exposure to one or more outages – means that midsize businesses feel outages and service degradations the same way as anyone else. which company.
Research finds that “80% of business decision makers believe technology disruption negatively affects them, their teams, and employee job satisfaction.” According to another survey, connectivity issues “can take up to 47% of a small or medium-sized business’ IT time” to mitigate and resolve. It’s a tax that most businesses can ill afford.
As a result, mid-sized businesses are acutely aware of the need to have appropriate business continuity arrangements in place that they can fall back on when needed.
Concepts and tools that were once the domain of big business are increasingly being transferred to the middle market for this purpose and requirement.
High availability, or HA, is one such concept. Simply put, high availability is about redundancy: having multiple ways to access an application, system, or data store, running multiple similar systems or connectivity links.
The idea is that if a network path to a server hosted in the cloud goes down, for example, the company can redirect its traffic to another path and continue to work as if nothing had happened.
Midsize businesses have been told they could implement high availability for at least a decade. “In today’s always-on business, high availability is not a luxury,” wrote a network engineer in 2011. “The failure of critical IT systems can have direct costs to the business, ranging from reduced user productivity to loss of revenue and customers. Therefore, it is incumbent on both IT managers and business managers in small and medium enterprises to make high availability a priority for core applications. »
But high availability has historically been prohibitively expensive and difficult to design, and therefore out of reach for many midsize businesses. It may also have been considered overkill, as mid-sized businesses at the time had relatively small and manageable networks and systems, mostly on-premises and under their control.
What has changed over the past decade is that these companies now run much more complex environments, where almost every component is owned or managed by someone else and is accessible over the public internet. With more “moving parts” and interdependencies, there is a greater chance of one element breaking and causing cascading failures or impacts to others – and to productivity in the process.
However, the options for dealing with these challenges and maintaining availability have also improved over the same period. There are also more tools available for midsize businesses to streamline the management of their networks and provide options for business continuity and disaster recovery.
Although architecture for high availability was once reserved for large enterprises, it is now much more cost effective to achieve and is now within the reach of more enterprises than ever before.
What makes high availability accessible is software-defined wide area networking or SD-WAN technology. Although SD-WAN has spent many years being touted as a replacement for the private MPLS networks that once connected business operations, it is actually much more than that.
SD-WAN acts as a virtual overlay on a range of transport services, which can come from different providers, and also of different types, such as MPLS, LTE and broadband. It implements traffic management policies that can determine the most optimal path for a user to connect to an asset such as software, data store, or cloud-based system.
It is these same intelligent network management and routing capabilities in SD-WAN platforms that make them suitable for implementing and managing high availability network arrangements.
Businesses can purchase various links – 4G, 5G, NBN or private fiber – and visualize and operate them as a single cohesive network using SD-WAN overlay.
As vendors embed additional AI and analytics capabilities directly into SD-WAN appliances, this means the technology can automatically detect, recognize and predict potential disruptions on a link, then dynamically offload or share traffic between other links available that do not experience problems. In a word, it is a highly available infrastructure.
Businesses that achieve high availability have a better chance of keeping their employees and customers happy and connected by protecting them from the adverse effects of unplanned downtime.