Think Services Not Servers to Avoid Downtime

Jul 31, 2015 | Managed Services, Operations, Strategy

It’s been kind of a rough week here this week. We’ve had to deal with a couple of outages, and that’s always stressful. Fortunately, it’s something we have to deal with a lot less frequently than I had to in the bad old days when I was a corporate IT guy, or when I first started consulting.

Those days were tough. Despite the spin from the technology industry, technology wasn’t all the dependable a few years ago. Generally speaking, the smaller the company, the worse things were, because putting the sort of stuff in place that could prevent failures and outages wasn’t cheap. It wasn’t obvious to most small business IT people, either, or even to quite a few big company IT people. I could tell you stories…

Most of the failures and outages I see at small and medium-sized companies these days are completely preventable. Not always, but definitely the majority are. Providing dependable, always on technology for your business isn’t the expensive proposition it used to be. The options available, even to the smallest business, can leverage very highly redundant, dependable hardware and software. In fact, most of the time these days you don’t even have to worry about the hardware.

Successfully managing business technology needs today requires a really different thought process than it did in the past. You need to worry less about servers and packaged software, and more about what services you need to manage to achieve your business goals. The biggest challenge for IT and business in the past several decades has been business/IT alignment. Getting that right is easier today than it’s ever been, simply because so much of IT has been repackaged as easy to consume services.

So, if you want to get out of a world of worrying about hardware failures and outages, stop thinking in terms of devices, operating systems, and packaged software. Start thinking in terms of services and service providers. Stop thinking of technology staff primarily (or only) in terms of engineers, and start thinking in terms of people that can coordinate and manage diverse service providers and teams of people, both inside and outside your company to help you leverage these services to meet your business goals.

A great example of what I’m talking about is our BackupWorks service. BackupWorks is a service that makes use of an entire basket of technologies and services to protect your company’s technology from failures and outages.

Not that long ago, building something like BackupWorks for your business would have involved you or your IT staff having to perform all of the following tasks:

Evaluating and selecting backup software
Selecting, ordering and provisioning a server to run that software
Selecting, ordering and provisioning disk storage to house the backups
Building a virtualization environment sufficient to run recovered servers
Selecting a secure offsite co-location or hosting facility
Configuring the backup software correctly to perform the required backups
Selecting and configuring software to monitor and report on the success of the backups
Configuring the backups to to converted to virtual machine images
Selecting a hosting provider to house the offsite infrastructure for the backups
Replicating the virtualization and backup infrastructure at the hosting facility
Setting up offsite replication from the onsite backup infrastructure to the hosting facility
Setting up a system to monitor the successful replication of backups to the offsite hosting facility
Testing all of the above, and fixing anything that doesn’t work.

Not only would doing all of that require some pretty sophisticated (and expensive!) engineering talent to get set up correctly, keeping it running with all of those moving parts wouldn’t be easy or cheap, either. Building it would take a few months of effort, and many tens of thousands of dollars. To do it right, you’d probably want to add an engineer dedicated to keeping it running, watching the monitoring, and performing periodic testing of the entire recovery process to be sure it works. It’s absolutely no wonder that most small and mid-sized businesses have been trying to get by with entirely inadequate and extremely failure prone backup and disaster recovery systems for the past thirty years.

Contrast that with BackupWorks. One call, a brief discussion/review to determine how much data you need to protect, about two hours to get the on-site device set up and configured, and you no longer need to be concerned about backup and offsite disaster recovery capability. Any potential failures or server outages can be dealt with in minutes instead of potentially days. Everything is monitored; testing is continuous and automated. For a small up-front cost and a few cents per gigabyte of protected data per month it’s all taken care of. Rather than having to employ an engineer to operate a complex system, you can employ technology staff that can help you leverage technology to grow your business.

BackupWorks is just one example of how business technology is radically different today from the way it was even just a few years ago. Don’t let your business be hamstrung by legacy systems and outdated approaches to IT. Stop thinking servers and start thinking services. Give Brightworks a call and let us show you a better way.