PW: Tony, could you begin by explaining what High Availability Systems and Disaster Recovery are?
TONY: A “High Availability System” provides protection against breakdown in your IT system to avoid short term outages while an engineer fixes the system. You need a “Disaster Recovery Plan and Facilities” to provide protection against longer term and more catastrophic problems.
PW: Why are these now so important?
TONY: Simply because wholesalers are becoming increasingly dependant on computer systems. They are used to support more and more functions, there is a trend towards multiple warehouse shifts and 24 hour warehouse operation, and paper backup systems no longer work. Business can grind to a halt if the system should fail. This is especially true for companies with Telesales operations or real-time warehouse management systems.
PW: So, how does a high availability system operate?
TONY: The principle is duplication of individual components – CPUs, disk drives, power supplies, etc., so that there is no single point of failure – the computer can continue to run without any one component. Greatest resilience is provided by clustered servers – i.e. two or more separate computers linked together and functioning as one system. If one goes down, the other automatically takes over. The disk drive sub-system, which contains data often shared between servers within the cluster, must have redundancy built in – e.g. data mirrored across different disk drives.
PW: This all sounds important, but expensive. How much does it all cost and how do I choose what’s best for me?
TONY: Clearly, the cost will depend on the system you choose and the level of availability/security you require. Reducing hardware costs have made High Availability systems increasingly affordable. How much you spend on Disaster Recovery to protect against any given event, depends on the level of risk, and the potential cost of that event. Your solutions provider should be able to advise you and help you to choose the most cost effective solutions for your own particular requirements. Again, the main question you must ask yourself is “can I afford not to have these systems?”