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By 8 April 2014 | Categories: Skills and Development

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Brendan Widlake, business development executive at Stratus Technologies, delves into what business critical actually means these days.

In today’s always-on, increasingly complex IT world, organisations and their CIOs are faced with an unprecedented set of challenges. IT departments are not only required to cater for the continuous expansion of users, environments and devices, but  are expected to create an infrastructure that can compete in a global economy, increase revenue and reduce costs, comply with regulations, mitigate outages, as well as plan for business continuity. And it is all of these factors that are driving the increased demand for reliable, continuous availability of the most critical applications, with no tolerance for down time and the associated business impact. 

Business now is business critical

In the past, the definition of what constituted business critical was relatively well understood. Here industries on which down time had the most impact were usually restricted to the financial, supply chain and sometimes telecommunications sectors. Today areas such as data analytics, sales force automation, CRM, web content, social applications and logistics, all of which could impact the customer experience, have found their way into the business critical realm.

It is through our dealings with customers, qualifying which of their applications are indeed critical and building the appropriate availability solutions, that we are broadly seeing three categories emerging. Here the applications identified are those that if they were unavailable would have a significant impact to the revenue of a company, the reputation of a company, or to the lives of the staff or customers.

Three key areas

Applications that could have an impact on the revenue or the profitability of a company if unavailable are usually the first to be identified when planning for availability or business continuity. They are also the easiest to identify as they are usually at the heart of business operations. As examples, in a retail bank the point of sale and ATM application suites that generate profits every time a card is swiped would be considered critical. 

While reputation may not seem an obvious category to define as business critical, in our always-on world consumers are increasingly demanding continuous online self-service business services. The convenience of online transactional systems has transformed the way we search for and procure flights, cars, accommodation, insurance and banking, to name only a few. Just imagine if these systems were unavailable for a few hours. In this scenario today’s consumers would move on to the competition, never return and with increased frequency use social media platforms to vent their frustration. 

The protection of lives category is the most easily defined of the three. This is a surprisingly large market with transportation, public safety and access control comprising the three sub-sectors. Public safely is clearly where lives are at stake. Here many fire, police and emergency services call centres cannot afford for their control and dispatch applications to be unavailable for even a few minutes. 

Access control is another area increasingly being identified by organisations as something they consider critical. High profile and secure facilities like nuclear power stations, oil refinery plants and pharmaceutical factories have long considered security and restriction of personnel critical. Today however, with more organisations adopting single sign-on applications that control access from everything from the parking lot through to work applications, the need for availability is quickly growing.

Identification is key

In a nutshell, our ever-increasing reliance on technology means that ultimately every organisation has some area that can be considered business critical. It is however up to each individual organisation to identify and prioritise these areas according to their unique business environments.

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