How to Partner Cyber-Resilience with Business Functions for a More Secure and Profitable Institution

Several experts, including McKinsey & Company, have provided extensive reporting on the topic of how cyber resilience in partnership with business functions equals a “safer and more profitable enterprise.” Not surprisingly, most advise that cyber resilience, security, and profitability are among the top goals of nearly every business today and moving forward into 2022. Divided opinion appears to be the best way to achieve these goals.

HA + DR = Electronic Elasticity

In the database world, as well as elsewhere, High Availability (HA) and Disaster Recovery (DR) are sometimes confused – or even considered the same thing. HA is the ability of a database and its associated services to run continuously without failure and deliver an agreed service level (SLA) for operational uptime, while DR is the ability to restore data/databases and maintain/restore services after an outage event, or natural disaster or man-made. Ensuring just one or the other does not imply electronic flexibility. You should really have both.

Microsoft SQL Server remains a priority but can be a challenge

Microsoft SQL Server remains one of the most widely used relational database management systems (RDMS) in the world, serving as the mainstay for many business functions. In 2020, LearnSQL.com listed Microsoft SQL Server in its top three most popular databases. Author Jacob Romanowski stated in the rating article, “Many companies trust Microsoft, use other solutions from this company, and don’t want to include anything else in their IT system.” He added, “Every dollar you spend learning MS SQL Server will pay off.”

Furthermore, Romanowski noted that Microsoft is also offering the cloud-based Azure platform. Romanowski explained that this means that organizations can avoid installing MS Server on a physical computer by putting it on the cloud instead. “This makes the database easier for multiple users to do and also keeps things more secure than a single on-site installation.”

However, ensuring an HA and DR database is a huge challenge, and there are many hurdles to overcome in many areas including:

  • steadfastness
  • protection
  • Scalability (not only across sites within the company but also across remote sites and clouds)

The truth is that while today’s world is connected, it is also very fragile. Organizations are tasked with providing database flexibility between and within availability zones or regions. There are of course also security concerns: even with data constantly moving between isolated networks (including availability and zones), companies must ensure the integrity of that data. Moreover, organizations must also keep scalability in mind. In response to rapid changes in behaviors and expectations, companies must find a way to not only manage the number of database instances but also scale.

HA/DR Basic Challenge

To ensure optimal protection of remote data, users of the new class of cloud-based Microsoft SQL Server must determine how to reliably harness the full power of DR and HA capabilities of on-premises HA. But there was a major snag until recently, that had a huge impact on SQL Server. If your company wants to use SQL Server on Linux for Both HA and DR, you had to choose between “two evils”, so to speak:

  • The first suboptimal option was to use a pacemaker-based solution. For DR, this is based on VPNs while requiring separate pools for availability groups and HA instances.
  • The second option, which was also not ideal, was to use VPNs for DR and combine HA SQL Server instances with another data replication solution – be it full virtual machine replication, storage, block level, etc.

The result of trying to do all of this—groups for SQL Server Availability Groups (AGs), pacemakers, and VPNs—can aptly be described as a “Frankenstein” effort put together that doesn’t work very well. It not only lacks scalability and fails the RTO and RPO requirements, but it also lacks insufficient data security due to VPNs. Finally, such a “scientific project” is costly and financially unsustainable.

Shift gears to a more efficient use case

Let’s compare the difference between the “Frankenstein” method described above and the more effective solution – the smart availability software that runs on top of SQL Server. Take, for example, a large fintech company that considered using SQL Server AG, defibrillators groups, and direct network connections. This financial services firm found that the proposed structure had the following problems:

  • The local HA and DR architecture that was too complex and unreliable
  • Cluster management that was problematic due to a mixture of more than one incompatible clustering technology
  • Manual failover management between clusters and data centers, which presents challenges with RTO from long system outages
  • Expensive infrastructure that requires constant maintenance

Not satisfied with these results (which is understandable), the company sought a better solution. After implementing a multi-platform intelligent availability clustering program to run on top of SQL Server, the fintech company experienced better uptime and faster transaction processing. The key was to use SQL Server’s smart availability software which would solve many more pain points compared to the first use case above:

  • Increase performance of SQL Server AGs
  • Simplify SQL Server workload management
  • Respond to the requirements of channel partners and end customers to improve database resiliency from SQL Server
  • Provide Zero Trust Safety
  • Providing scalability across public and private clouds, and between remote and local sites

For an organization that needs to integrate remote data protection with on-premises HA, the company can halve SQL server costs.

meet needs

The second use case of intelligent availability aggregation software running on top of SQL Server has several obvious advantages, centered around easy-to-implement smart HA and DR technology, virtually no downtime, workload portability, infrastructure freedom, and cost savings. With simple system management, evergreen infrastructure compatibility, and easier and standardized on-premises HA and DR architecture, this single suite creates the cyber resilience that organizations need. Smart Availability Program:

  • RPO by using micro-tunneling boosts up to three times the performance of SQL Server AG
  • Allows ultra-fast RTO movement (less than 15 seconds)
  • Facilitates fully automatic failover management

Data protection is another benefit of this approach. In fact, you can find patented SDP technology combined with some of the latest Smart Availability software, which delivers secure multi-site and multi-cloud network connections. Significantly, this type of software also removes the VPN bypass attack surface, resulting in strong network security. Last but not least, smart availability software saves costs and provides a high ROI. Eliminates server replication and the need to use VPNs, additional SQL Server licenses, and more than one clustering technology (Pacemaker or Windows Server Failover Cluster.)

Here’s the thing: While Smart Availability isn’t the first enterprise data management system to offer HA aggregation, other technologies are simply less efficient in the cloud and between data centers. As having HA and DR capabilities is critical to cyber resilience, the new Smart Availability Program is the way to go as it addresses challenges that other solutions don’t, drawing on cloud IT, hybrid IT, and data center to data center aggregation technology. The software works well with Microsoft SQL Server and helps organizations deploy distributed HA clusters to SQL Server clusters on both Linux and Windows. Finally, the software eliminates both the performance issues and the complexity of traditional solutions, and stands out as the clear winner when compared to other pooling, redundancy, and VPN technologies.

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