JOHANNESBURG – March 17, 2011 – End users rate e-mail as their number one application and place an integral reliance on it for many business functions. All e-mail systems will, however, fail at some stage, becoming a source of user dissatisfaction and lost productivity, as well as risking reputation, potential regulatory consequence and lost revenue.
Protecting the availability of e-mail service and e-mail data access is therefore a key responsibility of the IT function.
“Unfortunately conventional approaches to e-mail continuity are technically complex, have a high total cost of ownership, and invoking them can usually only be justified in the most serious of disasters,” says Mark Edwards, director of product and services at technology solutions and people resources integrator, Intuate Group.
He adds that the cost of ensuring e-mail uptime remains a prohibitive factor as many organisations’ IT budgets are already under pressure to deliver more business value. He believes, however, that this picture can be changed by delivering a unique gateway-based e-mail continuity solution “as a service” via the Internet.
“In order to protect e-mail uptime there are three key strategies that IT departments must invest in to succeed at meeting their organisations’ demand for e-mail uptime. These are: availability, recovery and continuity,” he says.
Availability investments seek to ensure that systems never fail, or that the possibility of them failing is reduced.
“However, due to the localised nature of availability systems, the persistence of single points of failure elsewhere and the fallibility of many availability technologies at a hardware, software or, often, human resource level, companies still need to plan for the potential failure of these systems,” says Edwards.
Recovery strategies are designed to ensure that if and when something goes wrong, systems can be recovered and services can be restored within a timeframe that is acceptable to business. They have two performance criteria: firstly, they seek to avoid any loss of data as a result of a system failure and secondly, minimising the recovery period.
Recovery is seldom achieved without some degree of data loss as systems can only be recovered to the point at which the last working back-up was taken. Reducing the recovery period substantially requires significant budget as additional hardware, real-time data replication infrastructure, advanced IT skills, and offsite facilities must be made available.
“Recovery of backed up data is by no means a guarantee that restored systems will be fully functional. Mail servers rely on large monolithic file structures and errors can take extended periods of time to occur. Even when the recovery period has been reduced by the application of technical solutions, the business may still suffer extended downtime in many disaster scenarios,” he says.
This is due to the management processes that must be followed by a company during a disaster. This may include the convening of a crisis committee who will assess the extent of the problems, consider the risks and impact, explore various resolution scenarios, and then finally may give the go ahead to IT to invoke their part of the disaster recovery plan. Human involvement and management processes will impose significant latency on what otherwise could be a shorter technical recovery period.
“Reversing the disaster recovery plan and returning business systems to normal, after the disaster is dealt with, is a resource intensive process. Recovery plans are therefore seldom invoked trivially,” he adds.
A continuity strategy provides the option of continuous access to services during a system failure via an independent offsite infrastructure. This infrastructure is typically loosely coupled with the primary e-mail system. It can be used to keep users productive and communicating during the lag before a full system recovery plan is invoked, whilst it is underway or indeed as an alternative to invoking a full failover to a recovery system. It can also be made available to end users during a minor outage, planned downtime or maintenance making the cost and complexity of switching to a full production recovery site unnecessary.
“Many companies do not yet make the distinction between availability, business continuity and disaster recovery. By fully understanding the separate options available in each strategy, companies can avoid over-investing, be more responsive to their end users needs, eliminate their exposure to a broader set of risks and achieve an optimal level of e-mail service availability well within their budgets,” concludes Edwards.
ABOUT INTUATE GROUP:
The Intuate Group is a privately owned, broad-based IT company that focuses on providing professional integrated technology – and people resources solutions. Its services include project management, IT strategy and consulting, the supply and implementation of best-of-breed IT solutions, business intelligence, managing and supporting IT infrastructure – specifically storage and server consolidation – as well as the provision of resources. The company’s offering is based on four pillars – project management, managed services, product solutions and people solutions. For more information, please visit www.intuategroup.com
Intuate Group, Mark Edwards, (011) 302-1200, firstname.lastname@example.org