Ask the IT Consultant

Feb 18 2010   2:00PM GMT

Five Tenets for Achieving High Availability for Critical Applications


Question:  My organization demands critical applications such as email and ERP be “always on” (whenever users want to access them).  What is the best way to achieve “always on” IT systems?

The pervasiveness of the Internet has put IT executives in a bind.  Nowadays, organizations rely so heavily on IT to run their businesses that users have become IT’s top priority.  IT is expected to deliver high availability and predictable performance for key user applications — the always on imperative.

Yet, many IT departments lack sufficient resources – skilled personnel, streamlined processes and effective technology – to keep IT operations running smoothly when needed.  Moreover, existing applications were often designed and deployed from IT’s perspective, not the business, or users’.  For example, IT generally concentrates on analyzing technical specifications, defining IT acceptance testing, and managing project deliverables.  User requirements get little attention which often leads to poor user adoption, negating the expected project ROI.

This technical mindset of designing, deploying and managing IT systems is no longer sustainable.  Application development needs to be prioritized for business requirements, user needs and business value.  The deployment phase should be concerned with user acceptance, training and usage, first.  Incorporating metrics for business impact (e.g. application availability & performance for the users; user adoption rates; and productivity gains) ensure that these goals are met.  Operations must concentrate on high availability and performance.  A through awareness and visibility into the applications and all other elements that must function optimally will make certain critical business services are enabled properly.

Adopting the following five tenets will deliver “always on” applications and lead to high availability and predictable performance of key applications for users:

  • Design with the end in mind – Meet the objective of high availability and performance over the entire multi-year usage period
  • Follow the money – Stay focused on financial and business benefits of IT systems instead of technical benefits
  • Focus on user experience – Shift perspective from technology performance to user productivity
  • Break the silos – Create cross functional teams to achieve high collaboration between IT and users
  • Manage from the business process perspective – Monitor critical applications down through underlying equipment to understand business impact of all system components. This will hasten problem resolution and reduce unplanned downtime.

About the Author

Robert Johnson, Director of Product Marketing, Atrion Networking Corporation

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