There was a time when the term 'mission critical' would only be uttered by Captain Kirk.
Not any more. The term, and its more English equivalent 'business critical', has been on the tip of every tongue since the rise of ebusiness saw a thunderous increase in the number of business critical applications.
In the old world order, business critical was linked to the provision of high levels of server-centric availability. Today, it encompasses all aspects of IT infrastructure.
As the need for uninterrupted uptime has spread, previously non-strategic applications such as email have rocketed up the critical ladder. Firms are beginning to understand the importance of IT and are aligning IT strategy closely to business strategy.
In today's enterprise, the closer the application is to the customer, the more important it gets. The customer is not always external to the organisation; increasingly it is internal.
The result is that front-office application vendors are coming under increased pressure to provide service level agreements (SLAs). Although research has shown that the number of business critical applications requiring 100 per cent availability has increased from 25 per cent in 1999 to 37 per cent in 2001, few achieved their targets.
SLAs have been common practice for some time, but the economic slump is forcing firms to look at the performance of their IT infrastructure with a more critical eye.
As companies become more customer-centric, it has become harder to measure the cost of downtime. How can you quantify the cost of losing customer confidence?
An interesting phenomenon has been the growth of internal SLAs. IT departments are coming under closer scrutiny and can be subject to the same strict performance measurements as third parties.
As the number of key business processes powered by technology increases, companies have become more financially dependent on continuous network uptime. Delivery of high-performance and high-availability business services through the IT infrastructure is now up there with financial planning.
IT has finally come of age, and the network manager has become perhaps the most business critical individual in the organisation.
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