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Build your future with a high-availability architecture

The term, high availability, might be challenging to grasp because it’s an abstract concept and can be applied to many areas. To build a highly resilient system, you need to cater for the failure of a component at any point of the technology stack.
15 May 2020 Michael Holtzhausen

There will come a time when a seemingly insignificant technology component will fail in your data centre. Whether you host your applications in the cloud or on a physical machine, they are compiled using a complex set of closely integrated services, hardware components and human touchpoints. Unfortunately, component failures like these are unavoidable. But instead of burying your head in the sand and hoping that it won't happen to your business, gear up to ensure your systems are always highly available.

Achieving business continuity should be your primary objective. The best way to do this is by adopting a high-availability approach when architecting your IT systems. High-availability configuration involves identifying all the interdependent services of a system that is responsible for a cohesive business application and ensuring it is kept online even when various component failures occur or when it is put under undue stress. STS specialises in architecting application systems to provide complete redundancy.

Why you need high availability

Take an e-commerce website for example. Behind the curtains, there’s a whole layer of technology areas that make up the available online service. Each one of these plays a critical role – if any of these services fail, it could create a ripple effect that could bring down the entire website. The company that owns the e-commerce website will then experience downtime. Customers can’t buy off that site, which means less revenue for that company.

To demonstrate the severity of downtime, think of this real-world example: In 2003, Amazon's web and mobile services went down for 15 minutes. In that time, the popular e-commerce company lost more than $66 000 a minute – that's about R1.2 million at today’s exchange rate.

Our high-availability solution explained

Our high-availability consulting engagement involves taking an in-depth look at the business’s vital services and all its components. Our team identifies all the interdependencies that exist down the chain, then determines which broken chain will cause a catastrophic failure. We then propose technologies or process changes that will mitigate that risk. As part of that process, we weigh up expensive solutions which will provide real-time or near-zero downtime against less expensive solutions that might need a few minutes for recovery.

Our high-availability solution is designed to bridge the logical and physical gap between IT business services and infrastructure. We achieve this by taking a consultative approach when reviewing your business services.

For the e-commerce website mentioned earlier, we suggest:

  • Implementing dual internet connections to the data centre facility ensuring no single internet outage would cause the website to go down;
  • Creating multiple power feeds in the data centre facility to cater for an outage if one feed gets damaged by accident;
  • Duplicating components across data centres to multiple geographies so that if there’s a strike or service delivery protest in Sandton, you can fail the service over to Cape Town and still service the website;
  • Putting in place redundant firewalls ensuring redundancy for when one path is under malicious attack;
  • Hosting an active and passive website server with functions like RAID, dual HBAs, redundant power supplies; and
  • Using a DNS service that has redundancy.

The goal of a high-availability solution is to get applications back up and running as fast as possible. It does this through automation to move faster than any human. So you simply can’t achieve 24/7 uptime without it.

Does my business really need it?

Any business (whether you operate on a small or medium scale) will benefit from a high-availability solution. All companies, irrespective of size, have business-critical applications. The only difference is that a business with a high number of application users will require significantly greater availability.

Chat to us now so we can work on creating a high-availability infrastructure for your business.

High Availability A Tale of Two Companies
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High Availability A Tale of Two Companies
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