3 Principles for Effective Business Continuity Planning

Business continuity planning (BCP) is all about being ready for the unexpected. While BCP is a company-wide effort, IT plays an especially important role in maintaining business operations, with the task of ensuring redundancy measures and backup for data centers in case of an outage.

With enterprises migrating to the cloud and adopting a work-from-anywhere model, BCP today must also include continual access to cloud applications and support for remote users. Yet, the traditional network architecture (MPLS connectivity, VPN servers, etc.) wasn’t built with cloud services and remote users in mind. This inevitably introduces new challenges when planning for business continuity today, not to mention the global pandemic in the background.

Three Measures for BCP Readiness

In order to guarantee continued operations to all edges and locations, at all times – even during a data center or branch outage – IT needs to make sure the answer to all three questions below is YES.

  1. Can you provide access to data and applications according to corporate security policies during an outage?
  2. Are applications and data repositories as accessible and responsive during an outage as during normal operations?
  3. Can you continue to support users and troubleshoot problems effectively during an outage?

If you can’t answer YES to all the above, then it looks like your current network infrastructure is inadequate to ensure business continuity when it comes to secure data access, optimized user experience, and effective visibility and management.

Business Continuity Planning in the Cloud and Mobile Era
| Get eBook

The Challenges of Legacy Networks

Secure Data Access

When a data center is down, branches connect to a secondary data center until the primary one is restored. But does that guarantee business operations continue as usual? Although data replication may have operated within requisite RTO/RPO, users may be blocked from the secondary data center, requiring IT to update security policies across the legacy infrastructure in order to enable secure access.

When a branch office is down, users work from remote, connecting back via the Internet to the VPN in the data center. Yet VPN wasn’t designed to support an entire remote workforce simultaneously, forcing IT to add VPN servers to address the surge of remote users, who also generate more Internet traffic, resulting in the need for bandwidth upgrade. If a company runs branch firewalls with VPN access, challenges become even more significant, as IT must plan for duplicating these capabilities as well.

Optimized User Experience  

When a data center is down, users can access applications from the secondary data center. But, if the performance of these applications relies on WAN optimization devices, IT will need to invest further in WAN optimization at the secondary data center, otherwise data transfer will slow down to a crawl. The same is true for cloud connections. If a premium cloud connection is used, these capabilities must also be replicated at the secondary data center.

When a branch office is down, remote access via VPN is often complicated and time-consuming for users. When accessing cloud applications, traffic must be backhauled to the data center for inspection, adding delay and further undermining user experience. The WAN optimization devices required for accelerating branch-datacenter connections are no longer available, further crippling file transfers and application performance. In addition, IT needs to configure new QoS policies for remote users.

Effective Visibility and Management

When a data center is done, users continue working from branch offices, and thus user management should remain the same. This requires IT to replicate management tools to the secondary data center in order to maintain user support, troubleshooting, and application management.

When a branch office is down, IT needs user management and traffic monitoring tools that can support remote users. Such tools must be integrated with existing office tools to avoid fragmenting visibility by maintaining separate views of remote and office users.

BCP Requires a New Architecture

Legacy enterprise networks are composed of point solutions with numerous components – different kinds of network services and cloud connections, optimization devices, VPN servers, firewalls, and other security tools – all of which can fail.

BCP needs to consider each of these components; capabilities need to be replicated to secondary data centers and upgraded to accommodate additional loads during an outage. With so much functionality concentrated in on-site appliances, effective BCP becomes a mission impossible task, not to mention the additional time and money required as part of the attempt to ensure business continuity in a legacy network environment.

SASE: The Architecture for Effective BCP

SASE provides the adequate underlying infrastructure for BCP in today’s digital environment. With SASE, a single, global network connects and secures all sites, cloud resources, and remote users. There are no separate backbones for site connectivity, dedicated cloud connections for optimized cloud access, or additional VPN servers for remote access.

As such, there’s no need to replicate these capabilities for BCP. The SASE network is a full mesh, where the loss of a site can’t impact the connectivity of other locations. Access is restricted by a suite of security services running in cloud-native software built into the PoPs that comprise the SASE cloud. With optimization and self-healing built into the SASE service, enterprises receive a global infrastructure designed for effective BCP.