Designing a fit for purpose solution 

Cloud Hosting and Business Continuity 

Recent outages on Amazon Web Services (AWS), have shown that hosting an application in the cloud does not guarantee any level of business continuity. Before we launch into complex (aka expense) architecture design with real-time replication of systems in multiple cloud storage environments (AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google GCP, etc.), and rehearsing fail over scenarios, let’s take a deep breath. 

In this article I’ll explain how the Accuteque Team worked with Westside Sealants to develop a “Fit for Purpose” business continuity process, that aligned to existing business processes. This translated into minimal Change Management and functional reassurance. 

Cloud Computing - Business Continuity

Application Cloud Hosting – Is it a Single Point of Failure ?

On December 7th, 2021, a major outage affected some Amazon Web Services (AWS) that lasted almost 6 hours and affected AWS customers around the world. At the time of the incident, it was not clear why some AWS customers were affected and others not. Information from AWS about the cause of the incident, and time to restore services, was not exactly forthcoming. In fact, finding any information about the incident (even that it existed) was a challenge in itself. Many were left in the dark about what was happening.  

Westside Sealants use a cloud-based Work Management application and were one of the businesses affected by the 6 hour AWS outage. Westside Sealants have technicians in the field that use a ruggedized tablet to access and update jobs for each day. They use a Work Management solution that is built using the Knack application development tool. An extended outage impacts Westside Sealants Technicians directly as they are no longer able to access job information (Job address, contact numbers, etc.). 

Cloud Hosting Providers do have unscheduled outages and customers need to develop strategies to mitigate risk, and enable the continuation of day-to-day activities, if/when they are affected by a Hosting Provider Outage. 

Business Continuity Requirements 

In times of a system outage (Cloud Hosting Provider, Works Management System failure, Telecommunications, or device technical issue), the Westside Sealant team need to be able to access job information, and communicate that to the Technicians, either verbally or via a PDF document.  

Business Continuity Process Design 

As a result of the outage affecting Westside Sealants, the Accuteque team developed a business continuity procedure that utilizes Cloud Hosting Providers and applications that are not connected to the primary Hosting Provider. The business continuity procedure provides an alternative to the on-line Work Management process that is effective, low cost, does not increase the architectural complexity of the Work Management application, and is easily verified on a daily basis. 

For Westside Sealants, Accuteque has developed a tailored Business Continuity process that compliments the existing business processes. Westside Sealants assign technicians to jobs the day before the job is scheduled to be completed. This practice allowed Accuteque to design and build a relatively simple but effective business continuity process. The first step is to extract the job details from the Works Management application each evening, in a low-tech format e.g. spreadsheet or PDF. Then, to ensure this information is accessible in times of an outage, the low-tech format job details are then stored with a different Cloud Hosting Provider and emailed to key staff within the business.  

Going forward Westside Sealants are well prepared if AWS has another unexpected outage. By working with their existing processes and designing a fit for purpose solution, we have given Westside Sealants the ability to ensure business continuity in unforeseen circumstances.  

Layers of Business Continuity- Puzzle pieces
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