The impact of consumer data on business
At the outset, there is no consumer-centric organization today that does not recognize the value that consumer data brings to its business strategy. Needless to say, the boundaries of enterprise information have blurred. Organizations are investing heavily in big data and heavy duty analytics platforms to mine consumer data and generate rich, actionable insights. New organizational roles (both business and IT) are being defined, specifically to drive consumer content aggregation, standardization, real-time tracking and analytics. The natural outcome of these developments is the largescale investment in compute and storage, either on-premise or through cloud infrastructure providers.
There is a lot of focus within consumer-driven companies to harness social media information to make business decisions such as timing a new product launch, competition tracking, user sentiment analysis, influencer management and digital PR. Investments are being made in state-of-the-art CRM and digital transformation applications that have the ability to converge traditional sales and marketing channels with new digital and social platforms. The resultant analytics allows teams to deep dive into consumer behaviour, purchase patterns and market risk.
Here, we must not miss the impact that IoT (Internet of Things) will potentially have in the future. We are already talking about smart energy management, driverless cars and remote patient monitoring using sensors and internet-driven applications. These ‘things’ would generate terabytes of real-time user information which, when mined and analysed, would provide unmatched value to business.
Of course, all of this aligns well with parallel developments around artificial intelligence and cognitive tools, which would be essential to derive value from consumer generated data.
How Current DR Practices Are Impacted
The first question for CIOs to address here is – what is business critical?
Typically, core enterprise applications and data, such as ERP systems in FMCG, core banking platforms in banks or payment related applications in ecommerce, get the bulk of DR focus. Many other enterprise applications such as HRMS, analytics, team management tools, etc. are viewed as peripheral and may not have the same performance and availability SLAs as core systems, in a DR scenario.
With the growing role of consumer technology in influencing purchase decisions, enterprises cannot afford to keep these applications outside the definition of mission critical. In a crisis, maintaining a high level of engagement with consumers will become a business critical need. DR strategies will need to lay a higher level of emphasis on rapid availability and access to large consumer data sets, high compute applications for real-time reporting and applications (including BI / data warehouses and analytics tools) that interface with mobile apps and other consumer devices.
The other area of focus needs to be security. With hundreds of thousands of external devices interacting with enterprise applications, DR mechanisms need to have strong security protocols and remediation mechanisms to ensure that consumer data is not compromised. This is particularly important for highly regulated industries like banking, insurance and healthcare.
Why Cloud DR Becomes Imperative
There are two primary reasons why cloud DR becomes the most relevant way to address the challenges brought on by consumer technology.
Firstly, consumer data processing and storage needs tend to be highly transactional and variable in nature. On-premise investments almost always fail to deliver against this kind of variability, after a while. A cloud-based DR solution offers the necessary elasticity to address this transient volume and compute needs.
Secondly, a large part of value from consumer data comes from the ability to perform a wide variety of analytics operations, with the highest possible levels of accuracy and availability. Capabilities such as high-speed processing and real-time availability of information often become the primary victims of a natural disaster or human malice. This is where a cloud DR ensures that mission critical applications get the adequate level of compute and network horsepower to stay up and running.
There are many other areas where cloud DR helps CIOs handle consumer data needs more effectively, such as cost optimization, rapid instance / VM setup, easy migration between public and private cloud, colocation advantages, etc. While the use of consumer data as a strategic business tool is catching up, it is currently just the tip of the iceberg. In the next few years, we can expect this area to evolve rapidly, and CIOs will need to put consumer driven data and applications much higher up in their DR priority list.