Cloud-10 Business Continuity and Resiliency

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Business Continuity is the activity an organization performs to ensure that critical business functions are available to the customers, suppliers, regulators, and other entities that must have access to those functions. These activities include many daily chores such as project management, system backups, change control, and help desk. Resiliency is the property of a system to adapt itself to the consequences of a catastrophic failure caused by natural or man-made events.

The business continuity is the responsibility of an organization that operates in a non-cloud environment. The planning and execution of business continuity is owned by the organization. Since the organization owns the entire IT infrastructure, it has the knowledge and the resources needed to develop an effective business continuity plan.

In case of an organization using a cloud, the responsibility of business continuity gets delegated to the cloud provider. The organization loses control over how business continuity is planned for and executed. This creates a risk to the organization of not having appropriate business continuity in the case of a disaster. To mitigate this risk, the organization using a cloud should do the following:

1. Ensure customer Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) are fully understood and defined in contractual relationships.

2. Confirm that the cloud provider has an existing Business Continuity Policy approved by the provider’s board of directors.

3. Check if the cloud provider has an active management support and a periodic review of the Business Continuity Program.

4. Verify whether the cloud provider's Business Continuity Program is certified and/or mapped to internationally recognized standards such as BS 25999.

Instead of a risk, if an organization itself lacks a business continuity strategy, and decides to use a cloud provider that has a well defined business continuity strategy, the organization benefits from the use of the cloud.

Real-world incident: Windows Azure, Microsoft's cloud computing platform, suffered an outage over a weekend in March, 2009. If your organization was using this service, how would the outage have affected the organization's ability to conduct business? Microsoft would own the responsibility to fix the issue and not the IT team of your organization.