The terms “disaster recovery” and “business continuity” often are used interchangeably when applied to the data center industry. Though both terms describe areas that need to be addressed by businesses and colocation providers, disaster recovery is only part of business continuity. In general, business continuity is comprised of resiliency in how business functions and infrastructure are designed, contingency plans to cope with whatever incidents and disasters that may occur, recovery of data and the capability to restore functions that fail.

Although business continuity can be a challenging issue for many companies, those that don’t have a plan in place for it take enormous risks in the sustainability of their company. Consider the following statistics:

  • Approximately 48 percent of business owners do not have a business continuity plan in place.
  • An estimated 75 percent of companies without business continuity plans fail within three years after facing a disaster.
  • It takes businesses an average of 5 hours to recover after a disaster.
  • Up to 40 percent of business affected by a disaster never reopen.
  • Approximately 40 percent of companies rate their organization’s ability to recover their operation in the event of disaster as fair or poor.

One way in which some companies address business continuity is by utilizing a distributed data center approach. In a distributed approach, if one site fails, there are multiple other locations that automatically pick up the load. This approach works especially well with large content distributors because it allows them to replicate content across a distributed architecture. It is not, however, a good option for highly interactive applications or in instances where users access a common data store.

A distributed approach to data center architecture enables applications and data to be distributed among public, provide and cloud environments and helps mitigate disasters that can affect a company’s financial and operational performance. It provides redundancy, scalability and high availability though an interconnected, high-speed and low-latency network. Plus, it offers load balancing across multiple sites and provides enhanced fault tolerance if one of multiple data centers is not available.

Additional benefits of a distributed data center approach include:

  • Reduced network congestion;
  • Remote replication of data for disaster protection;
  • Elimination of system shutdowns due to component failures;
  • Enhanced uptime;
  • Numerous availability zones and failure domains to maintain service during any site failures;

Businesses and applications that benefit from a highly distributed model often involve content distribution. Where a large number of highly distributed users/content consumers are served by a large number of smaller IT infrastructure deployments tuned to replicate and distribute the content (movies, music, audio, etc.) In these scenarios the IT platform has automatic failover built in the software.  If one server, or even whole data center becomes available, the other locations pick up the load and the user community may never know.  In these situations the key selection criteria for data centers are access to multiple network providers and proximity to the end-user community, rather than the more traditional data center characteristics like level of power and cooling resiliency and Tier certification.

In my next blog, I’ll discuss some challenges of using a distributed data center approach and provide an overview of the business continuity and disaster recovery solutions CenturyLink offers. In the meantime, please read our eBook, Six Ways Business Continuity Can Cost Your Business, to learn why implementing a business continuity plan and preparing for a disaster, no matter how unlikely, is essential to the success and sustainability of your business.

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