April, 2011

Recent reports from the likes of Gartner and the CMI both point to the increasing focus on business continuity strategies – something hardly surprising when you consider the cumulative effects of business disruptions of late. Last year alone, insurance firm RSA estimated that the snow-driven disruption in 2010 cost the UK economy £1.2bn a day.

With the Royal Wedding this year and the Olympics in 2012, not to mention the inevitable striking in key areas like transport, there are more and more instances where the daily lives of working people can be affected during the working year. While the nature of the incidents themselves cannot always be predicted, the fact that these incidents will take place – on an increasingly regular basis – can be.

Amidst the disruptions, businesses have to know that the vast majority of their staff can be productive even if they can’t make it into the office. Yet, worryingly, our recent analysis of business disruptions found a significant rise in communication failures in 2010, such as disruptions relating to telephone or network outages, compared with previous years.

There’s no excuse for not having a productivity protection strategy – flexibility needs to be more integrated into continuity plans.

The emergence of internet and mobile technologies does, however, mean that such precautions are far less daunting than they used to be. The technology is now available and affordable to enable far more of your employees to carry on working as normal. Technologies such as Recover Anywhere, for example, offer businesses agility without compromising on security, enabling them to recover more people and more departments; faster and more cost-effectively than ever before.

Think of it like this: if unplanned events do disrupt your business, who do you want to have a higher percentage of the workforce active, winning business and serving customers – yourself or the competition? Can you really afford to have over half your workforce out of action for days at a time?

In line with coalition promises to “reduce the red tape burden” on businesses, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has confirmed that it is in agreement with Lord Young’s recommendation to relax rules in low-risk environments, which include homes. This removes what some companies had seen as a barrier to homeworking due to the cost and impracticality of conducting potentially hundreds of individual risk assessments at employees’ home addresses.

The announcement of a more sensible, pragmatic approach came as no surprise to SunGard Availability Services, which had been monitoring the HSE for the past 18 months as it developed its groundbreaking Recover AnywhereTM service.  This gives SunGard customers the opportunity to create a recovery environment that seamlessly combines physical Workplace recovery and telephony with virtualised desktop and telephony, allowing employees to work anywhere equipped with just a PC and phone.

In much the same way that organisations realised savings by divesting themselves of expensive, underused office space and shifted towards mobile working, this development also strengthens the business case for operating with a reduced office estate.

According to the first Post-Recessional Workplaces Review* conducted by the British Institute of Facilities Managers, two thirds of organisations are trying to reduce their office space by working differently and using their premises more effectively.

Replacing the considerable costs of establishing and maintaining a fully equipped recovery site on standby with an on-demand recovery service from a third party provider means businesses pay only for what they actually use. The expense becomes an operational rather than capital cost and firms can leverage even greater value from the changed business model by exploiting other technological advances to create efficiency-savings.

A leading daily newspaper and major financial services organisation are currently trialling Recover Anywhere, which will give SunGard the opportunity to refine the service still further.

Click here to see how RECOVER ANYWHERE works

*Source: FM World – 11 November 2010

Lighter touch is good news for firms considering homeworking - SunGard Availability Services

With the first organisations scheduled to pay the new climate change levy in 2012, many are anxious about what effect the change of government will have on the measures intended to force UK industry to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Unfortunately, the answer appears to be “wait and see” as the Carbon Reduction Energy Efficiency Scheme (formerly known as the Carbon Reduction Commitment) introduced in April 2010 was afforded just one small paragraph in the Comprehensive Spending Review.

Under the original scheme, british businesses with energy use above 6000MWh of electricity that were not subject to any other energy efficiency scheme would be charged a levy to discourage heavy energy usage. This was billed as being a central part of the UK’s strategy for reducing carbon dioxide emissions in line with our commitments under the climate change Act 2008. As the scheme was ostensibly designed to encourage changes in behaviour and infrastructure, firms could apply for a sizeable proportion of the charge to be returned in exchange for implementing certain energy-saving measures.

The coalition government has committed to simplify the scheme to reduce the burden on businesses. While the details are still under discussion, from what we know of the new-look scheme, it seems that while the charges are still in place the rebate mechanism has now been removed entirely (presumably under the guise of simplification). 

SunGard experts are keeping a close watch on the developing situation and any further announcements from the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC), which may lead to further legislation. But it seems inevitable that the government intends to levy  an additional charge on industry calculated on the basis of past energy usage.

Whatever form the scheme ultimately takes, it will strengthen the argument for buying into a shared infrastructure that services multiple organisations, which is inherently a ‘greener’ and cheaper way to provide computing and workplace recovery than individual companies trying to buy, resource and power their own standby facilities.

Cutting through the hot air

IT spending surveyWe promised to bring you the full findings of our IT survey of 100 chief financial officers (CFOs) in mid-sized UK headquartered firms conducted by Vanson Bourn on behalf of SunGard Availability Services.

Two thirds (66%) of those responsible for financing it expenditure admitted to not fully understanding the benefits of moving to cloud computing, although this is recognised as being a key technology to reduce  it spend. This is particularly concerning as almost  two thirds (62%) of CFOs expect their it budgets to remain static over the next three years.

More than half (56%) of those polled said they are deterred from outsourcing the management of their it infrastructure by the perceived security risks. The research showed that these fears are exacerbated by high profile media stories about third party it outages or data losses with nearly half of respondents (45%) confessing that such cases make them more inclined to keep their data in-house, despite the cost implications.

While almost half (45%) of CFOs said they aspire to remove data centres from the balance sheet, almost two thirds (60%) had concerns over loss of control in handing data over to a third party. This concern could be attributed, at least in part, to a lack of understanding as less than a third (28%) said they knew the distinction between private and public clouds, which as you will know, differ radically in terms of security and resilience!

Interestingly, the survey highlighted a marked difference in attitudes between home and work use of the cloud. More than two thirds (67%) of CFOs have eagerly embraced cloud-based apps such as Hotmail, GoogleMail and Spotify for their personal use, while  just over a quarter (26%) currently use corporate applications in the cloud.

A solid record and history of resilience in protecting customers’ data was rated the most important attribute in a third party provider by 49% of respondents, followed by a well-known brand name (35%) and impressive ROI statistics cited by just 16%.

The findings suggest that organisations are looking for a solution that offers all the benefits of the cloud – such as cost savings and increased agility – but where data and applications are stored in a fully resilient and secure data centre that allows firms complete control. As this is exactly what a private cloud offers, it is clear that  those with it responsibility probably need to do more to educate financial decision-makers about the benefits of moving to the right cloud environment.

The findings of a new Computing survey, sponsored by SunGard Availability Services, paint a worrying picture of organisations that are not in control of their information, unsure of their data protection obligations and unable to recover their critical data and systems within the required timeframe.

  • Nearly 7% of UK enterprises back up their data only every few days, or periodically – an extraordinary admission in today’s information economy.
  • Astonishingly, 18% of senior IT strategists within medium to large UK enterprises answered “Don’t know” when asked what data regulations govern their business.

It should be said that these failings cannot necessarily be laid at the door of the it department whose hardpressed staff are having to accommodate phenomenal data growth, equipped only with multiple legacy systems and a budget that is insufficient to tackle the root cause of the problem.

Putting the results in context, the survey’s author notes that whereas ‘the old economy’ was rooted in global infrastructures and distribution networks that evolved over centuries and were unlikely ever to fail completely, our high-speed information age of social networking, e-commerce and mobile communications has sprung  up in less than two decades!

Organisations built on shaky foundations

The study concludes that replication could be the solution – but points out that replicating an inefficient, multi-vendor it infrastructure merely magnifies the problem. Furthermore, up until now it has been an expensive option, affordable only by large, cash-rich enterprises. However, cloud computing: infrastructure, applications and computing platforms delivered as a pay-per-use service – brings replication within reach  of all businesses.

As Replication as a Service follows the cloud computing model of renting on-demand services rather than maintaining a duplicate it infrastructure, the cost switches from being a capex to opex, added to which customers pay only for what they need. For this reason, it is estimated that Replication as a Service can result in savings of nearly 40% on traditional replication.

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