Cloud Business Continuity: Because Resilience Passes Through The Cloud
In this regard, the term resilience, or business resiliency, is often used to identify the organization’s ability to manage adverse events better, transforming potential discontinuities into opportunities. By way of example, a disruptive event was Covid, which not only revolutionized the working model but created a discontinuity in global supply chains: companies that, before 2020, had already structured their supply chains supply in terms of resilience have not only managed to survive but have built a real competitive advantage on it.
But why are we talking about cloud business continuity? Why is business resilience one of the benefits of relying on cloud services and infrastructures?
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Cloud Business Continuity: threats and the Role of the Cloud
According to Gartner, by 2025, spending on public cloud services will exceed traditional IT, i.e., for on-premise systems and infrastructure. The Italian market records continuous growth in cloud spending, with +16% in 2021 compared to the previous year and 2022, which promises to continue on the same wavelength.
However, adoption drivers are moving away from cloud business continuity. Enterprises, in particular, have adopted (and are adopting) cloud services for several reasons, including:
- performance ;
- the native ability to support new agile working models;
- almost infinite scalability;
- engagement and collaboration;
- the flexible cost model ;
- constant updates.
In reality, cloud business continuity, i.e., the benefits of the cloud in business continuity, should push all companies towards progressively adopting its services. Apart from the personal causes of disruption, which we will examine later, the cloud offers two significant benefits over the on-premises approach:
- An enterprise-level company could adopt physical and IT protection systems like cloud providers. Still, the investment would have to be large and often unsustainable to do so. The cloud provider, for its part, serves various companies with its infrastructure and can thus quickly amortize even the most significant investments.
- Skills and updating
- The management of the resilience of a data center requires specialized skills, of which the market is stingy, and almost daily updates. Top talent looking for career growth is naturally drawn to large cloud providers.
Operational threats and how to manage them, on-premises and in the cloud
The best way to understand the benefits of cloud business continuity is to highlight some concrete causes of disruption and compare the on-premises management approach with the cloud one. Of particular interest is the matter of costs, which, as anticipated, are decidedly more manageable in a cloud model rather than in a proprietary infrastructure.
Network and communications outage
Corporate communications are the pillar of business based on two core elements: the traditional telephone infrastructure and the Internet. Regardless of the cause, a connectivity interruption causes impacting consequences at an operational level, hence potential economic and image damage.
There are two problems here: the one related to connectivity and the one that depends on the (on-premise) systems that manage communications, including traditional switchboards. While powerless against the connectivity problem (which the company must manage through network redundancies), the cloud solves the second problem by acting as an always-on hub for corporate communications. Thanks to dedicated solutions such as UCaaS (Unified Communications as a service), CCaaS (Contact Center as a service), and cloud switchboards for the telephone component.
Failures in infrastructure and IT systems
The progressive increase in the complexity of IT infrastructures has created various points of failure in IT environments over the years: servers, network architectures, storage devices, and endpoints. It is the most common threat to business continuity and one of the strengths of cloud business continuity. Also, in this case, high availability is closely connected to redundancies, translating into significant investments in hardware and management skills.
Cloud providers invest billions of dollars yearly in their infrastructure along the two lines of performance and security. The cloud is a natively redundant model because only in this way can providers commit to very challenging SLAs (Service Level Agreements) exceeding 99% uptime. To this end, think of Google’s e-mail and the clamor that caused a few hours of downtime at the end of 2020. Redundancy, as mentioned, is inherent in the model: the company (or the end-user) must not foresee any expense or dedicated investment.
Interruption of energy supplies
The classic blackouts involve private users, companies, their IT infrastructures, and related production systems. A blackout can paralyze a company, causing damage, compliance risks, and reputational crises. In this area, the combination of cloud business continuity is a winner.
Power outages in corporate data centers are manageable but costly. To keep IT systems operational, the company must first equip itself with uninterruptible power supplies capable of guaranteeing autonomy for a period deemed adequate to restore reserves (a few hours at most). If their business continuity is at the center of specific regulatory obligations, companies can further protect themselves by adopting two independent electricity supply lines. An even more advanced (and expensive) hypothesis involves acquiring fuel generators (often huge diesel engines) to be added to the UPS. While the latter intervene instantly so as not to cause downtime but to have limited autonomy, the generator can also guarantee days of continuous operation.
How does cloud business continuity work? It has already been said that the public cloud is based on a concept of resilience integrated into the service model. This means that the data centers of large providers natively integrate all of the above operational protection systems, which is essential for ensuring compliance with challenging SLAs. In addition to fully declaring all the protection systems adopted, cloud data centers have specific certifications relating to security management processes and infrastructure resilience. By way of example, the Tiers of the Uptime Institute are part of this second category: it certifies it as Tier 4, by way of example, guarantees an uptime of 99.995% on an annual basis, i.e., interruptions (added) must not exceed 26.3 minutes.
Increasingly insidious cyber attacks
Risk factor par excellence, cybercrime is a topic that affects all companies, regardless of the size, activity, and value of their data.
This is another central theme in cloud business continuity, but with some conceptual differences compared to the previous cases. The cloud is not limited to adopting state-of-the-art defense solutions and technologies, to which companies only sometimes have access (often due to lack of specialist skills), but completely renews the cyber security paradigm. If on-premise environments tend to be bound by perimeter protection, the cloud extends the perimeter indefinitely and makes it fluid to support new work and relationship models.
From protecting the infrastructure, we, therefore, move, with the Zero-Trust models, to protect networks, devices, identities, and accesses, integrating all these areas into a systemic model, centrally managed and equipped with advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence.