IT resilience refers to a network or system’s ability to withstand the slings and arrows of life and operations, from human error to migration failure to natural disaster. Any of these unavoidable factors can disrupt or even cripple an enterprise.
As a concept, IT resilience is closely related to security. A deliberate attack is, in a sense, a predictable mishap that can befall a network. Moreover, even non-malicious mishaps can have drastic security consequences, such as when an employee accidentally leaves critical data unprotected. A resilient system is capable of standing up to cybercriminals as well as the natural misadventures of the IT world.
The Challenges of IT Resilience
Unfortunately, an IDG report titled “The 2016 State of Resilience: Keep Your Data Moving Forward” suggested that organizations struggled in these areas in the past year.
United Airlines’ flight management systems crashed, for example, forcing hundreds of flight cancellations and snowballing waves of delays. Additionally, glitches in the Royal Bank of Scotland’s system left hundreds of thousands of transactions unprocessed, triggering further disruption. These are just a few high-profile examples mentioned in the study.
The report also identified five domains of IT operations facing major challenges related to resilience: migration, downtime and disaster recovery, cloud, data sharing and outsourcing. Because outsourcing is less technical in nature, we’ll focus on the first four major challenges listed.
Organizations should periodically migrate their operations to new systems due to technology changes or the demands of growth. These migrations are often disruptive, however.
More than a quarter of respondents to the IDG survey indicated that migrations took between 25 and 100 hours, while one-sixth reported experiencing migrations that took more than 100 hours. Moreover, 44 percent of these IT professionals reported outright migration failures, most often due to applications that did not run on the new system.
Downtime and Disaster Recovery
Migrations are not the only cause of downtime, which can leave enterprises paralyzed. Operator error can also lead to system or network crashes. Remarkably, according to IDG, only 30 percent of respondents worldwide have analyzed costs related to downtime.
But disasters, from statewide floods to server room fires, can cause significant harmful downtime. In these cases, hardware is often damaged beyond repair and data, unless backed up externally, can be lost forever. Only 15 percent of survey participants expressed confidence in their disaster recovery plans.
By 2015, two-thirds of businesses were actively tapping into the cloud, with software-as-a-service (SaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) being the most widely used capabilities.
Outsourced cloud computing poses technical challenges similar to those facing in-house services and resources. Cloud is a distinct resilience domain because it is a partnership: If your cloud provider crashes, your cloud-based operations crash along with it. The technology introduces particularly complex resilience issues because non-IT departments may be using unsanctioned cloud services behind the scenes.
Finally, the growth of data sharing within organizations leads to resilience problems. IT professionals are under pressure to provide more data to other business units more quickly, which has resulted in increased sharing among databases.
Apart from the security implications of fast-growing database activity, exchanges among databases increase the risk of storing inconsistent information in various locations. Seventy percent of professionals expressed concern about data inconsistency, according to the IDG report.
Coping With Complexity in the Big Data Era
Another recent study by the Ponemon Institute, “The 2016 Cyber Resilient Organization,” echoed the concerns described in the IDG survey and underlined the close relationship between resilience and security. That study also identified complexity as one of the greatest challenges to IT resilience.
Organizations are embracing the big data era, gathering and generating more information in more varied ways than ever before. Meanwhile, cloud and mobility are causing that data to move along more complex paths. Organizations and security professionals must be proactive to ensure IT resilience in this increasingly complicated world.