Who Needs High Availability

Who Needs High Availability: Industries & Use Cases

When considering ‘Who needs high availability?’ ask the following question: is downtime unacceptable to your business? Do you work for an Enterprise company? Is access to your services & data around the clock important, if not required? Then likely, your business can benefit from a Highly Available (HA) IT system.

Customers of all industries need HA. However, there are a few types we see repeatedly: Technology, Education, and Finance. We hear their stories of how HA is a requirement of their industry (e.g., banks & financial institutions) or how downtime would demolish their business promise of keeping their systems up and running. Often, technology companies embed HA software as part of their own, creating a reliable, fault-tolerant package for their end customers.

To examine these industries at a deeper level, I wanted to take one of the most prominent players in the tech game, Cisco Systems, and discuss their use case. As an OEM, Cisco has customers who will not deploy systems without HA. Instead, they need HA inside their appliance to recover from an outage within seconds so their end clients can keep their mission-critical systems up and running seamlessly. Essentially, downtime costs Cisco too much.

According to Gartner, the cost of downtime is $5,600 per minute. Of course, there is a considerable variance depending on your sector, revenue, and the number of people affected. One of the worst parts of having downtime is that almost half of it is unplanned. With over 77,000 employees globally, that would be a lot of Cisco employees twiddling their thumbs, waiting for their servers to get back up, losing focus, time, and money.

The Educational Sector

The educational sector took me by surprise, especially within last year’s COVID-19 pandemic. Many schools are taking in classroom learning and transitioning their full curriculum to online learning. This transformation means a lot of things to many people; in the tech industry, it means the servers the students and teachers utilize must always be up and running. Think of downtime in an in-person classroom. How would that look? Would the teacher leave the room? Where would all the notes go? Would the students lose focus?

There are so many factors at play as to why uptime is essential here and why the educational sector needs high availability. Many universities have had remote learning in place for a while. Earning a college degree can be done entirely online these days. While this is a wonderful opportunity for students, it would never exist without the proper infrastructure to support the data.

Athabasca University, for example, a large distance-learning online University, needed HA virtualized servers to provide all of their 260,000 students with access to their campus database. After implementing HA software, Athabasca now has fast, efficient, and reliable services for its students and employees alike.

The Financial Industry

Within the financial industry, there are many aspects and benefits of HA that come into play:

  • Having your online banking system up and running so your customers can access their accounts.
  • Having your POS system available so you can make transactions within stores.
  • Withdrawals & deposits at ATMs.
The list goes on. Banks that do not have these services available are going to hear about it. It will be all over the news by the end of the day—a PR nightmare. People want access to their money, and they want it now. 24/7/365 availability is an absolute requirement when dealing with a financial institution.

High Availability Plan

With an HA plan in place, you are on your way to happy employees and happy customers. Achieving the 5 9’s (99.999%) is attainable. Going one step further and adding Disaster Recovery (DR) to your infrastructure is the best way to maintain data availability. I’m not just talking about a nightly back-up here. I am insinuating a real-time off-site replica of all your data. HA will be your local real-time replication, and DR will be your off-site replica in case of a disaster.

This method has been extremely useful in southern states of the US during hurricane season. In this case, automatic failover will occur when your primary server is underwater, to your off-site location (anywhere in the world). Since all the data will have been mirrored, your DR software will have automatically migrated services, and the downtime will be minimal if even noticeable to a user.

Back to our question at hand: Who needs high availability? Sure, Global Enterprise Organizations- especially in the education, finance, and technology industries as noted today. But who else? To evaluate your needs at your own company, I think it’s important to ask what you are willing to tolerate. Costly downtime? Data loss? And, in all honesty, I’m sure some companies are okay with that.

But are they the Fortune 500 companies that we have come to know and trust today? Never. The most successful companies in the world have a contingency plan. And this is my nod to that plan being HA, and when HA fails, DR. Cheers and happy replication!

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