How to Optimize Availability and Simplify Compliance

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July 19, 2017 High Availability Blog Articles, Regulatory Compliance Blog

In today’s business world, high availability solutions are just as necessary for running your business as they are for meeting compliance. See how optimizing your company’s availability is the best – and most cost-effective – way to make meeting compliance a simple, passive process.

 

Why System Reliability Does Not Mean System Availability

Today’s computers – including both hardware and software – are generally very reliable. Unfortunately, this reliability does not equate to availability.

Even if your hardware or software never fail, they can still become unusable from a number of issues. These range from simple human error and power failure, to cyber-attacks and natural disasters (think floods, fires, earthquakes, or lightning, to name just a few possibilities). The reliability of your hardware and software is really only one part of a complicated puzzle determining your systems’ availability.

The scenarios listed above only consider unplanned events. While these might be rare, planned downtime from maintenance is not. The effects from planned maintenance used to be negligible, since maintenance could be scheduled during off-hours. However, with the reliance that today’s market has on services – particularly financial services – this luxury is no longer an option. In today’s globalized marketplace, many organizations operate in international markets across different time zones. Even when companies only operate within one country, many financial services institutions offer their services 24 hours a day online, or through Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). Those who do not offer this level of availability face a marked disadvantage in the minds of current and prospective consumers.

 

Business Goals Versus Compliance Mandates

For all of the reasons listed above, availability has become an essential and unavoidable part of today’s regulatory compliance. Downtime is no longer just an inconvenience or a financial loss – it is also a breach of mandatory government regulations. However, avoiding downtime can be challenging considering the inevitable maintenance that companies require. Necessary updates and upgrades must now be addressed while still maintaining online and available systems, 24 x 7. That’s not to mention continuity in the face of inevitable unplanned events as well.

Because of the high customer reliance on the availability of financial services, this industry has a uniquely high requirement for business continuity (BC). Even if company officials determine that a lower level of availability makes financial sense for a particular operation, laws often supersede these determinations with more stringent requirements. This means that your high availability needs are largely determined by stricter legal mandates, not purely business decisions.

 

Optimizing Your Availability

When moving towards optimized availability for your systems, keep in mind that:

  • Not every system needs 100% uptime
  • All data should be secure and unalterable, even without 100% uptime
  • Solutions must be balanced between business goals and government mandates

Optimizing the availability of your systems involves first taking stock of those systems and their underlying data. Define the level of availability required for each system or application with respect to your business goals, and compare those with requirements set by laws and regulations (we have these requirements in a series on our blog). For instance, if your company works in the financial services sector and determines that your availability goal is only 20 hours of e-banking availability per day, certain regulations – like Basel II – will say otherwise. Meanwhile, almost every law has guidelines that make data loss intolerable, particularly for financial services. This means disaster recovery (DR) is an essential solution to have in place, since data loss will not only ruin your ability to meet compliance, but also your ability to function as a company.

Keep in mind that “optimum availability” does not equal “maximum availability.” Achieving optimum availability will be a balancing act between your business goals and government mandates, with the aim of achieving the most cost-effective solutions for your company. For instance, while losing financial transaction data would be intolerable, having the systems that process those transactions go offline for several minutes could be tolerable, assuming this happens infrequently and no data is lost. Similarly, human resources systems could probably go offline outside of peak hours to accommodate maintenance, without affecting the business’ core functions or customer satisfaction. Meanwhile, having the systems supporting an ATM network go offline would have a negative impact on customer satisfaction as well as your ability to meet regulatory compliance.

Although government mandates tend to have stricter availability requirements than companies would otherwise aim for, this is not always the case. Make sure you are aware of the cost of downtime for each system before deciding that investing less money in availability solutions is a cheaper route. Even minutes of downtime can end up being much more expensive than an unused data availability solution, especially when you take long-term consequences into account. After optimizing the availability of your systems – balancing business considerations with compliance mandates – meeting compliance will become a seamless part of your day-to-day operations.

 

For more information on how to optimize your system’s availability and easily meet compliance, contact us today at 317 – 707 – 3941 or use the form below.



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