The idea of having a business continuity plan is nothing new. Businesses that existed as far back as the 1970’s already had the idea. Back then, they also had to deal with the effects of disasters and calamities. During the early years of computers used in workplaces, companies had to deal with the problem of maintaining the temperatures of massive computers and data centers.
Nowadays, the concerns for business continuity have changed, or more precisely, increased in scope. Companies still have to deal with disasters and accidents as well as hardware/software issues, but they also need to pay attention to incessant and evolving cyber-attacks. Additionally, with the widespread adoption of cloud computing, it is crucial to take it into consideration.
With all these, cloud computing appears to offer an advantageous solution. However, it also poses some challenges. Businesses need to carefully plan cloud adoption in the context of disaster recovery and business continuity. It makes sense to adopt cloud solutions, but the process is not going to be simple and straightforward.
Benefits of cloud solutions
PwC lists the following key benefits of using the cloud for business continuity planning initiatives.
- Lower costs - Instead of investing in new hardware or upgrading equipment, companies can use cloud services being offered under a “pay-as-you-go” model.
- Maintaining employee productivity - Not having disruptions associated with on-premise solutions means employee productivity is kept at pre-disruption levels.
- Deployment benefits - Cloud-based solutions are easier and faster to deploy with streamlined processes possible from proof of concept to production and procurement.
- Security - Cloud providers are involved in ensuring the security of client data and applications, reducing the security concerns of businesses.
- Automation - Cloud-based systems are highly compatible with automation, which helps reduce or even eliminate the possibility of human errors.
- Access from anywhere - With data and apps on the cloud, employees can access or use them wherever and whenever they need to. This is advantageous for companies that adopt work-from-home setups, which can boost efficiency and productivity.
Virtually all types and sizes of businesses experience these benefits. Small and mid-size businesses see the cloud as an extremely viable solution to their inability to invest in huge capital expenditures such as new equipment or hardware upgrades to match their expansion. Bigger companies, on the other hand, find it cost-efficient to use the cloud to unify their processes instead of massively spending on hardware and software necessary for multi-branch or multi-region operations.
The faster and easier deployment, reduced security burden, ability to automate and remote work compatible infrastructure are also compelling reasons for many companies to consider the cloud in their business continuity planning strategies. It would be inexpedient to disregard the cloud when many companies and business studies can serve as proof of its real-world benefits.
Moreover, the pandemic and the new normal following it have forced businesses to reduce costs and maximize efficiency while enabling remote work and bolstering cyber defenses in light of the rise of cyber attacks amid the pandemic. The cloud may not be inevitable, but the idea that it improves various aspects of doing business in the modern setting definitely holds water.
Growing cloud adoption
An O’reilly study found that over 88 percent of organizations use the cloud and are planning to expand their cloud usage in the next year. Interestingly, the study also found that around a quarter of businesses are planning to move their apps to the cloud in the same period. Of this number, 17 percent are classified as large businesses (companies with more than 10,000 employees) that said that they have already moved all of their apps to the cloud.
The pandemic is said to be one of the most significant driving forces for cloud adoption. Red Hat CEO Paul Cormier, as quoted by InfoWorld UK Group Editor Scott Carey, said that the pandemic “probably accelerated things by five years.”
He added: “Customers accelerated what they were talking about doing, like looking at their architecture as a whole, taking more to the cloud, adding providers, moving more apps to containers—even on-premises—and now they are using that opportunity to do it.”
As far as business continuity is concerned, it matters that cloud adoption is growing because it is set to become a significant part of many businesses. This means that many technical issues companies would face will likely involve the cloud. Additionally, it will become a usual target for potential security threats. Thus, even if cloud providers have uptime guarantees, best practices in business continuity dictate that businesses need to take these into account as they develop their BCDR plans.
Cloud can help create good business continuity strategies, but it can also be the drawback that renders these strategies ineffective. Simply switching to the cloud does not automatically mean the elimination of downtimes and interruptions. As Accenture’s 2021 cloud trends report shows, the average cloud outage among businesses is around 117 minutes with a corresponding cost of $1 million to $5 million per hour.
What are the likely challenges businesses need to deal with when embracing cloud technology? One of the most notable difficulties is probably the need to refactor applications during cloud migration. This may not be that much of a problem for smaller companies, but bigger ones that use multiple clouds can have serious issues with security and a higher risk of configuration errors and vulnerabilities that may enable cross-account attacks.
Other potential problems that can make cloud a slippery slope for many businesses are anchored on the possibility that companies become too reliant on them. Companies may put all of their data and apps in a single cloud provider or instance, and end up losing everything when something unexpected or undesirable happens.
These unexpected or undesirable events include the following:
- Data or privacy breaches
- Force majeure and accidents affecting the provider
- Power outages affecting the cloud provider
- Enterprise agreement expiration
- Changes in the cloud provider’s terms and conditions including the prices
- Lack of technical support
- Uncompetitive and un-updated cloud features
Before using cloud services, it is important to have solutions for the listed problems. It is vital to prepare for the impact of these concerns. A disaster recovery and business continuity plan does not serve its purpose if the cloud itself becomes the source of the problem.
“The goal of a continuity solution should firstly focus on safeguarding continuous availability of the service. In other words, when problems occur at the CSP, the customer should be harmed as least as possible,” says Carlos Santos, Director of the Institute Crisis & Continuity Management. Santos adds that “the continuity solution must be set up for the long term, so the essential assets of the enterprise will be available at all times.”
Making cloud a part of strategy formulation
The cloud can make it easier to recover from a disaster or cyber attack. It can be a tool for business continuity. However, cloud services can be tricky to deal with. Some, for example, make it difficult for clients to ditch a service and look for a better alternative through exit strategies and lock-in contract provisions.
The significance of cloud computing to modern businesses is undeniable, but this should not hide the fact that there are possible risks in using the cloud. It is crucial to modern business continuity not only because of its many benefits but also because it may present stumbling blocks in the deployment of a supposedly better strategy.