3 tips for business continuity success in branch offices

Simon Naylor, Vice President, ASEAN, Riverbed Technology

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

Branch offices represent the front lines of today's enterprises, with an average of more than 50 percent of an organisation's employees based at branch offices (remote sites, job site, stores, manufacturing plants, etc.) At the same time, nearly 50 percent of corporate data and intellectual property resides in branch offices and 50 percent of IT dollars are spent powering and maintaining them.

While branch offices and other remote sites play a vital role in generating revenue for an organisation, they're also a giant headache for IT departments to manage.

The reality is, companies often do not have the expertise at most branch offices to maintain such distributed infrastructures — and no one wins when you send qualified IT staff to remote offices to maintain servers that could ideally, regardless of distance, be located centrally.

From provisioning new applications to disaster recovery, it's a tremendous challenge to ensure that branch offices remain fully operational, with the applications and the necessary infrastructure to support it. If there is a disaster, restoring information and services to remote users can take days or even weeks, with every minute of downtime costing businesses money.

Keeping the data safe
Three main reasons contribute to the difficulty in keeping branch office applications and services in tiptop shape. Firstly, valuable company data is often stored at these locations and subject to loss. Secondly, backups are expensive, time-consuming and inefficient. Lastly, despite their increasingly complex IT infrastructure, few branch offices maintain skilled IT resources on-site.

As business continuity and disaster recovery become more critical to businesses than ever before, the call to action is for enterprises to rethink branch IT. Here are three best practices to guide your business to make recovering operations in minutes versus days a reality:

1. Centralise your data
While it may seem convenient at the start, maintaining islands of distributed servers and storage are often insecure, costly, complex, and inefficient to manage. Businesses need to consider technology tools that can consolidate their branch data and servers from remote sites back to the data centre, ensuring complete data security and centralised data protection. These tools also eliminate the need for branch backup processes, with zero compromise to application performance at the branch.

2. Virtualise your office to simplify provisioning and speed recovery
By using virtual machines in your data centre, branch offices can also achieve maximum agility and business continuity. Technology solutions like Riverbed's SteelHead technology is already embedded as part of SteelFusion, and delivers local performance and instant recovery at the branch. These technologies help to fuse branch servers, storage, networking, WAN optimisation, and virtualisation infrastructure into a single solution that reduces the average time to provision branch services by up to 30X. Branch offices are also empowered to provision and deploy new branch services, and entirely new branch sites quickly, reducing IT downtime. After all, IT should be seen as an enabler of business, and not simply a function!

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