Incorporate edge sites in business continuity plans to prevent downtime when disaster strikes

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Incorporate edge sites in business continuity plans to prevent downtime when disaster strikes

By Kate Fulkert, Global Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Director at Vertiv

From heat waves, hurricanes, and power outages to civil unrest, business leaders face ever-rising threats that can disrupt operations. Hurricane Ian in September 2022, for example, was the world’s twenty-ninth billion-dollar disaster out of 42 total disasters. Heat waves that same year pushed temperatures to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius), causing data center outages. The war in Ukraine and other geopolitical events are causing supply chain issues that are restricting commerce and limiting communications with employees, suppliers, and customers.

All this means disaster recovery planning is more important than ever — especially for IT leaders, who are responsible for the continuity of the digital systems that keep businesses running. Traditionally, these plans have focused on the enterprise data center, but as industry-wide investment in edge computing continues to grow, downtime at the edge can be just as disruptive as a data center outage. Customer experience often depends on edge sites that bring compute processing, application execution and data storage closer to users to reduce latency. Extending business continuity plans to the edge can be critical to minimizing downtime and speeding recovery in a disaster.

Challenges and opportunities at the Edge

From a business continuity perspective, the rapid growth of edge computing creates a variety of challenges – and opportunities. Edge sites may be at risk even when the core data center is not threatened by an unplanned event that causes work-stoppage. On the other hand, downtime at the data center level might not impact edge sites, allowing them to continue to operate independently since the infrastructure is local. There may also be opportunities to shift work to the edge to manage a data center disruption.

That means it’s important to incorporate edge sites into your risk assessments, recovery plans, data backups, and more. Here are five key considerations:

1. Prioritize business continuity for edge sites that are most critical. The time for this analysis is before a disaster strikes. Know which sites are most important to continuing operations and focus resources appropriately.

2. Ensure evacuation plans for personnel at edge sites. While many edge sites are unstaffed, is important to identify sites where IT staff is situated and ensure plans are in place to move them to safety in the event of extreme weather or other threats. Make sure staff at these locations have detailed plans on how to respond in the event of a disaster, including communications protocols to let leadership know if they are safe or if they need additional help.

3. Ensure effective monitoring of edge sites. While essential to delivering critical services, edge sites can be hard to reach. If your edge sites go down, they could take employees offline or impact service for customers. Remote access capabilities are essential to troubleshooting any issues, as well as enabling the IT staff to monitor, control, configure and upgrade devices.

4. Review backup power at the edge. Start by checking Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) batteries to ensure they will perform during power outages. Lithium-ion batteries are ideal for UPS applications in the data center or at the edge because they offer reliable performance, require less maintenance, and have a higher power density than lead-acid batteries.

5. Schedule preventive maintenance. While you likely plan for preventive maintenance at the data center, it is also critical not to consider your edge sites. If you do not already have a plan in place, now is the time to call your service provider to create one. If you already have a maintenance plan in place, review it with your service provider periodically to see if aging equipment needs additional attention to keep running optimally. Commitment to prevention pays off. An analysis by Vertiv that shows the Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) on UPS units that receive two preventive maintenance services a year is 23 times higher than equipment with no service events per year.

These steps are just part of creating a comprehensive disaster recovery plan that ensures your organization is ready when the unexpected happens, whether at the data center level or at the edge. Developing a disaster recovery checklist that spans the entire distributed network should involve a collaborative process with your team. It’s an ongoing process that includes regular updates, particularly as your edge presence grows, equipment is updated and staffing evolves. An effective data center services provider can play a critical role by involving infrastructure experts trained in business continuity and disaster recovery strategies.

About the author

Kate Fulkert is Global Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Director at Vertiv.

DISCLAIMER: Guest posts are submitted content. The views expressed in this post are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Edge Industry Review (EdgeIR.com).

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