Always available, always on – in conversation with Claude Schück, Veeam Software

January 31st, 2017, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: EngineerIT


Claude Schück, regional manager for Africa, Veeam Software.

Always available, always on – the two phrases seem to contradict each other. If an IT network is always on, surely it should be always available? Not so says Claude Schück, regional manager for Africa at Veeam.  And that is how Schück and I had a conversation over a cup of coffee, clearing up what appears to be a contradiction.

“Always available for me means how long will it take services to come back to be productive after a disruption? There are always challenges that everything in an organisation is not always on. That is the gap that always available points to. It is not really acceptable but in industry it is considered that there may be a short break in production and accessibility but only in terms of seconds and minutes, and not hours and days. That is what I am referring to as being always available.”

“Big organisations and enterprises that have large workforces are realising that if the mail server or print server is not working, that it is not only very unproductive but while your employees are doing nothing for four, five or six hours, the competition may cash in on your downtime.”

We chatted quite a bit about customer experience and the impact that unavailability of an online service has on customer retention. Schück related an incident that happened to him when he ordered groceries online. While placing his order the website went down and he had to log on again. The end result was that he did not receive all the goods he ordered. He said,  “It is not only irritating, but I was charged upfront for all my purchases and had to spend grudge time to get the store to rectify the situation.  Naturally I moved to another online store where up to now I have received great service. For the defaulting store I hope the IT people will spend time understanding what downtime can do to a company’s reputation and image and ultimately its position in the market. In the times we live today customers are unpredictable and will move their business for the slightest inconvenience to another company!”

The effort and cost to keep legacy systems up to date to ensure always availability far exceed investment in always availability products. Even the loss of productivity during four hours of downtime far exceeds the investment cost in new systems.

“In the South African context smaller businesses seem to be more up to date, they are more agile and move more quickly. Many have no legacy systems to replace. For smaller businesses, if they lose one or two big customers due to downtime they can close their doors. That is what availability means for them. Medium sized, larger businesses and enterprises are far behind. The banks are a perfect example of this. Recently one of the big banks went down for six to seven hours for two days in a row.  Banks and many large enterprises still operate on huge legacy systems which give software developers many headaches, having to develop and write patches that enable them to offer the services today’s customers expect.”

In the recent 2016 Veeam Availability Report it is reported that 84% of IT decision makers agreed that their organisations have an availability gap which results in an unacceptable number of unplanned downtime.

“While regulations compel banks and enterprises to keep records for many years it is fast retrieval that is now the problem. On which tape is it stored, do they still have the equipment to play the old tapes or do they have to look around the industry to find someone who has kept and maintained very old tape drives?  If information was stored a few years ago, the reply is yes we can retrieve the information but can you wait a week or so. Today the information can be pushed into the cloud or in the company’s own private could and be readily available. I can request IT for data from year five month four. They boot up the service, retrieve the required information from the cloud – whether public or private – and get back to me by the time I get back to my desk.  It is true that we today live in an era of instant gratification, it is no different in the IT industry. We are just fortunate that there are systems available to enable IT to deliver.

“To be truly an always on organisation requires a great deal of effort. It is not simply enough to provide employees with devices that enable email access while on the move. It is about guaranteeing access to all resources. During this year I believe we will see data centres being upgraded with the focus on 24/7 access for the always on enterprise. Having said that, cloud is currently underutilised. The majority of the IT decision makers who responded to the survey for the Availability Report are using cloud as a backup with the emphasis on recovering data in case something goes wrong, instead of using it to use backups more creatively in order to increase availability.

“After heavily investing in legacy systems over the years, decision makers cannot afford to rip and replace their entire infrastructure. As more businesses place availability at the heart of their plans, the industry will see a push towards hybrid cloud adoption in the enterprise. The hybrid approach provides a practical and cost-effective opportunity to move some of the workload into the cloud. In doing so, decision makers will reap the benefit of having peace of mind that availability is taken care of when it comes to mission-critical data. With this migration, companies across industry sectors will be able to transform their business strategies and economic models to be more reflective of the dynamic always on environment.

“From my interaction with the industry I detect a greater urgency to ensure that customers are spared downtime whether it is banking or online shopping,” said Schück.