Cloud to the rescue
While there are no specific figures on how much business productivity was lost due to the 2011 floods, there’s no doubt that natural disasters batter Australian businesses along with everything else. The Insurance Council of Australia has estimated the 2010/11 floods in South-East Queensland cost $2.38 billion in insurance claims, Cyclone Yasi cost $1.40 billion, and Victoria’s “Black Saturday” fires in 2009 resulted in $1.26 billion of claims.
But while not everyone can afford to operate the kind of IT infrastructure BDO had during the Brisbane floods, almost every business in Australia can now access cloud computing services that would let them keep operating after a disaster. It’s called ‘business continuity’ and experts say it’s essential now that so many business processes are tied to technology.
Case Study: Cloud email restores Eclipse Textiles operations in under three hours
When a broken server left Eclipse Textiles without email for a day, a move to cloud email proved faster and easier than repairing the old equipment...
In early December 2011, Rob Ellis’s email stopped working… and so did his business. Ellis is general manager of Eclipse Textiles, Australia’s leading wholesaler of fabrics knitted with LYCRA® fibre and Spandex. Eclipse brings these fabrics to Australia by the container-load and supplies manufacturers of sportswear and dancewear around the world.
Losing email was crippling. “I was left with a business that deals with Italy, Korea, Brazil, Turkey and New Zealand and no email to reach people there,” Ellis recalls. The reason for the outage was Eclipse’s email server, a device it kept on-premises. Ellis knew the server was old, but had chosen to prioritise other IT investments for the business.
When the server failed, taking Eclipse’s email with it, Ellis knew urgent action was required and called his preferred IT services organisation. A day later, the email server still wasn’t working and Ellis called Telstra for help.
“I had been talking with our very good Telstra representative earlier and he had described Telstra T-Suite, Office 365 cloud email and the association between Telstra and Microsoft,” says Ellis.
I provided Resolution with all our user names and other details at about two o’clock in the afternoon,” Ellis recalls. “At about 4.30pm our email was back. That speed of implementation really saved the day.
With the server still not working, he decided he had a choice: ask his IT services provider to rebuild the server, a job with uncertain deadlines, or give Telstra the challenge of getting him back online inside a day. “I said to our Telstra rep, if I can be up and running at 7am tomorrow, I will move to Office 365.”
Telstra took that challenge, engaging Resolution Technology, a Brisbane-based cloud specialist and Telstra partner, to implement Office 365 and deliver a working email system for Eclipse. More than a year later Ellis is still running Eclipse’s email on Office 365 and reports no problems. He’s also changed the way he thinks about the cloud.
“It’s easy to think about the cloud as a sort of virtual world, which evokes something insubstantial and therefore by association a bit insecure. I had those concerns to start with, but they are primitive and basic concerns that come with not having a box to point to."
“If you think of cloud as someone else’s server that just happens to be operated by a third party on another premises, it feels as real as if it were in your own office.”
Business continuity through data backup
Cloud computing can be used both to store data and deliver software, and is run from data centres that are designed to keep computers going under almost any circumstances.
Data centres have generators with many days’ worth of fuel, and multiple redundant versions of everything they need to operate. They are designed to survive the knock-on effects of flood, storm and other natural disasters.
Cloud computing can help smaller businesses in several ways; one is to back up essential data to a cloud service. “Back-up software can now save data onto whatever target you want, including a cloud service,” explains Adrian De Luca from the Storage Networking Industry Association of Australia and New Zealand.
Of course, losing data is a disaster all on its own. In Symantec’s State of Information Survey in 2012, respondents in Australia and New Zealand highlighted the impact of data loss to their businesses, including lost customers (47 per cent), damage to reputation and brand (47 per cent), decreased revenue (43 per cent), and increased expenses (44 per cent).
As well as storing data, the cloud can act as a back-up for your servers and the applications they run. A technology called virtualisation lets you create a copy of your server that can run on any other server, including those offered by cloud providers, without a long installation process.
Even if you prefer to run your own servers, creating a virtual copy means you can fire up a cloud copy if your servers can’t be accessed. Best of all, you don’t need to buy the back-up server: when disaster strikes you just rent it until you can restore operations in your office. This way of ensuring business continuity with the cloud is so powerful, researchers at Gartner believe 30 per cent of mid-sized businesses globally will use it by 2014.
A further cloudy continuity option is using software-as-a-service (SaaS), with software applications delivered through the internet. It looks and feels very close to comparable desktop software, but as it runs in a data centre it is more reliable. And because it’s accessed through the internet, SaaS can also be used with any device: if you can’t get to the office your home PC, tablet or even a smartphone can get you back online.
“SaaS offerings like Microsoft Office® 365 can give your team the business continuity benefits of the cloud without forcing them to learn a new way of working,” says Simeon Joyce, from Telstra’s Hosting and Applications. “Business can access email, important documents, contacts and a calendar on the go on a PC, phone and browser. Office 365 works seamlessly with the tools you already know such as Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office.”
Joyce is also keen on Symantec’s cloud email archive, Symantec Enterprise Vault.cloud, sold through Telstra T-Suite®.
“Having all your business’s email stored in a cloud means never having to worry about maintaining an archive for legal purposes,” he points out. “And if disaster strikes, all your email will be there, waiting for you to access it.” If this all sounds a bit sci-fi, don’t be worried. Cloud computing is already a billion-dollar business, according to analyst IBISWorld’s October 2012 report Cloud Computing in Australia, and it’s still growing.
The biggest names in the IT industry, including Telstra, have made substantial investments in cloud computing as a business continuity option. Doesn’t your business deserve that kind of protection against a rainy day?