'

Customer Information is Your Company's Life-Blood - Part IV

In a world of raised expectations and instant gratification, keeping your data continuously availabe is no longer an option. Customers and partners, too, are less patient with delay and more exact in their information and processing requirements. What was once acceptable in three days must now be done almost instantaneously.

Always On

In a world of raised expectations and instant gratification, keeping your data continuously available is no longer an option.

"I want it now!" said Veruca Salt in the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. And in a lot of ways, today, we're all Veruca Salts. Due in large part to the Internet, our expectations are a good deal higher.

Customers and partners, too, are less patient with delay and more exact in their information and processing requirements. What was once acceptable in three days must now be done almost instantaneously.

Downtime is a thing of the past. Speed is everything.

In a world that wants it now, being able to discern your customer's every whim has become not only desirable, it's essential

The phenomenon is pervasive, crossing all industries. Though the effect is hard to quantify, most executives readily agree that as time has sped up, its value has dramatically increased.

In a world that wants it now, being able to discern your customer's every whim has become not only desirable, it's essential.

If information should become unavailable when disaster strikes or when systems malfunction, your customers will take their business elsewhere. It's no wonder, then, that being successful in this kind of environment requires a rock-solid IT infrastructure.

Online all the time?

Online businesses, in particular, are bound by the 24/7 mentality. Take the online music site Myplay.com for example. Myplay lets users store, organize, download and share MP3 and other digital music files. "Music is intensely personal and our customers trust us to hold onto their entire music collection…So when we went looking for infrastructure partners, we were looking for much more than mere storage. We looked for somebody who could provide telephone or electricity-grade availability and reliability," says the company's founder, president and CEO, Doug Camplejohn.

According to a recent survey conducted by InformationWeek Research, reliability is the number one criteria businesses consider when choosing a data storage vendor, followed by performance and scalability, among others. (See "Special Report: Storage Drives," InformationWeek.Com, October 2, 2000.) Comments like the one from survey respondent Aristotle Balogh, VP of engineering at Verisign Global Registry Service, which registers all .com, .org and .edu names on the Internet, sum up that feeling: "We want a storage partner that understands the mission-critical nature of our business," says Balogh. "One corrupted record can take a company off the Internet or take a site down."

While storage systems are more reliable today than ever before, Murphy's Law still holds true: What can go wrong, will go wrong. There are many factors-both the seen and the unforeseen-that can corrupt data, cause data loss or downtime.

Let's take the foreseeable reasons for downtime first, or what in the industry is called 'scheduled' downtime-things like systems upgrades, re-configuration and regular maintenance. Today, storage vendors offer a variety of features that enable companies to reduce, if not totally eliminate, their risk of downtime.

Avoiding the cost of downtime

In particular, EMC, the marketshare leader in the storage arena, gets high marks from Gartner Group analyst Stan Zaffos for being the first in the industry to offer storage infrastructures with virtually zero downtime.

"They were the first to solve the data migration problem, so customers wouldn't have to experience the downtime associated with equipment installs and de-installs. And the first to provide the operating system-independent point-in-time copy capability," says Zaffos.

Having data continuously available saved Thomson Consumer Electronics downtime costs of $750,000 per day and helped the company keep its competitive edge. The world's fourth largest consumer electronics company is now providing design engineers with 24/7 access to the critical data they need to create new products.

"If the file system failed, so did the operating system, and it wouldn't reboot. Our downtime cost us $750,000 a day and we were down multiple days at a time."

Of course, there are always the unforeseen factors that have to be accounted for as well. That is, the disaster preparedness and recovery systems. Businesses can now create mirror images of production volumes that can be used to run simultaneous processes in parallel, so that primary data sources are never at risk. With these, along with several other features, at their disposal, organizations are now able to backup, recover and restore data simply and quickly without risking devastating losses.

To the many businesses where the "Open" sign never turns off, that's a great comfort.