Building business resilience

Chairman | Association of Freight Software Suppliers

As we become more and more reliant on the technology that we use in our daily lives so does the need to have reliable software and hardware.
 
The freight and logistics industry has embraced new technology which is used to ensure the movement of goods is efficient and cost effective. The reliability of these services has therefore become a critical part of business operations.
 
During a recent conversation with a major software supplier I was told that a large number of calls to their helpdesk related to hardware failures, especially printers. Although we now apparently live in a paperless world the inability to provide a printed document or package label can quickly bring the operation to a standstill.
 
Although hardware has become more reliable it remains an important element for consideration when planning business resilience. 
 
IT providers are finding that more and more of their customers are requesting faster recovery times from any failure as the pace of the industry increases. Real-time responses become ever more expected across the supply chain. One way to achieve the resilience that the customer seeks is a reduction of single points of failure in their infrastructure.
 
The adoption of virtual servers are the main driving force behind the advances in resilience that are now available.
 
Backup solutions are the first and most basic measure that need to be covered in any IT plan. Backups of systems need to be encrypted and should also be proven to be recoverable otherwise they are simply not worth doing.
 
On the hardware side, near real time replication of servers between multiple hardware instances is now possible. This once ‘enterprise level’ technology has reduced in cost and is now within reach of companies with reasonable IT budgets.
 
Should a major problem or natural disaster occur at the primary premises, disaster recovery measures can be put in place to provide near real-time replication of systems offsite. This shortens recovery times from the most severe outages from days to hours.
 
One other option is the use of hosted servers. With this model the customer’s infrastructure is outsourced to a provider. They will provide and support the solution on their hardware to offer greater resilience and performance than can be achieved on premise. These solutions still need the ‘disaster recovery’ functions because unforeseen events do happen to even the most robust of datacentres.
 
Communication networks are another big factor. The requirement for uninterrupted internet connectivity to the modern business cannot be underestimated and the cost from suppliers for leased line links is reducing all the time.
 
Unfortunately some businesses in the freight industry do not realise that their multiple heavily contended and unreliable broadband connections can be replaced by vastly improved technical solutions using a leased line circuit with a service level that far exceeds their current provider. This means a guaranteed fix and a responsive support experience is gained by the customer. 
 
In addition, the benefits to the user may be faster response times and less time waiting for responses on the various portals that they use frequently. Another benefit is likely to be a more reliable email delivery. That same link can be used to provide voice calling to reduce or retire legacy copper lines from business premises completely, thereby increasing the efficiency and mobility of the workforce.
 
It should be emphasised that these kinds of reliable internet links do however increase the need for internet security, and a managed firewall provided by a trusted and responsive provider is always needed.
 
All AFSS members have the experience and knowledge to help their customers find the best cost effective options minimising the disruption that occurs when hardware failures occur. One of the founder members of AFSS has specialised in providing responsive IT support services by providing business continuity services in ever more diverse ways.
 
For more details regarding AFSS members’ systems and services, please visit: www.afss.org.uk   
 
The author would like to thank Charlie Frost of Albacore Systems Ltd for his technical assistance in writing this article