3 Best Practices for Branch Office Application Availability

Keeping your applications “always on” for users is no easy task. These best practices can help your enterprise maintain continuous automated availability in remote locations.

by Jerry Melnick

Keeping your applications “always on” for users is no easy task. It can be particularly tricky for branch or remote locations where you may have little or no IT staff to support your efforts. To tackle this issue, we recommend implementing several best practices that can help your enterprise maintain continuous automated availability in your remote locations. Three of these best practices are highlighted below.

Best Practice #1: Don't Overlook Remote Location Availability

This may seem obvious, but it’s actually very common for IT departments to overlook their branch and remote locations when it comes to application availability. You can’t neglect these offices for both high-availability (HA) and disaster recovery (DR) plans -- you need a holistic approach to protect all of your business applications, no matter where they are located. This also means that you need to factor in these systems when planning your IT budget as well.

According to recent Forrester Research data, IT systems at remote and branch office locations account for more than 20 percent of your total infrastructure. They are critical to your business process and operations. Today, many of these locations don’t have HA or DR, and in some cases, they don’t even have basic backup. Make sure that these offices and locations aren’t forgotten as part of your HA and DR plans.

Best Practice #2: Classify Systems by Criticality

When developing your strategy for operational HA and DR, perform a business impact analysis. This doesn’t have to be a lengthy process -- you just need to map the dependent systems for each business process, and create a rough estimate of the cost of downtime for each. Once you have that information, you can determine availability rates as well as recovery objectives.

As part of that process you should also identify the most probable types of downtime. When you put that all together, you can classify systems by criticality (such as mission critical, business critical, business supporting) and then determine the availability rates needed for each system.

Best Practice #3: Develop Tiers of Service for Availability

Once you understand your range of recovery objectives, develop an IT availability and service continuity catalog. This catalog defines a range of service tiers. Forrester Research categorizes four main levels: mission critical, business critical, business important, and business supporting. Each tier has associated recovery objectives, technology pre-requisites, and service-delivery cost. This catalog helps to simplify your strategy by allowing you to assign appropriate tier classifications to new systems quickly and easily.

Another benefit of using this method is that it helps you limit the number of point products you are using for HA and DR. The more point products you use, the more you complicate the sequencing and complexity of preventing a failure or recovering from a failure. Keep it simple. Every time you deploy a new application or system, assign a tier from your catalog, put the appropriate protection in place, and communicate the information to the business users.

Jerry Melnick is chief technology officer at Marathon Technologies Corporation (www.marathontechnologies.com) which provides automated, fault-tolerant, high-availability software for Windows applications. You can contact the author at jmelnick@marathontechnologies.com