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MIS Systems Thread, Business continuity in the cloud in Technical; Originally Posted by PhilNeal This doesn't provide protection should the hosting company go under so perhaps it is necessary to ...
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    matt40k's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhilNeal View Post
    This doesn't provide protection should the hosting company go under so perhaps it is necessary to have a second provider mirroring the data? All this puts up the cost of the solution though!
    Microsoft are matching Amazon prices so it shouldn't be too expensive to have a half and half setup - ie one half your "cluster" on Azure and the other on Amazon or whatever.

    @GREED - your forgetting, infrastructure costs are peanuts, staff costs are the issue and when the administrators come in they're chopped off straight any, so are any costs like office space rental. So I'm saying don't expect anything other then enough time to get a backup off! PS: I hope your not suggesting Phil should spend all of Capita money and cut off any income revenue - actually aren't they stopping cheque payments and moving to direct payments?! Did anyone check the bank account it's going into - sure it had a description of "Graham's retirement fund"

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    GREED's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by matt40k View Post
    infrastructure costs are peanuts, staff costs are the issue and when the administrators come in they're chopped off straight any, so are any costs like office space rental. So I'm saying don't expect anything other then enough time to get a backup off!
    I think take a closer look at what happens at regular companies when administrators come in. Staff are not sacked but stop working, all sales and support stops, shops close. All of this has to be taken into account. Just because you can access the data still, would you have the capability in the few days you have to get it out, check it, validaite it is all there and get moved to another host, all 18000 schools?

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    Marshall_IT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhilNeal View Post
    Many thanks for contributions to this thread; it has helped my thinking a lot.

    I am quite surprised that this issue hasnít been flushed out before as it is so fundamental.

    No one has pointed to an existing scheme that provides protection to end users so I will pursue this with government however I suspect that this will be regarded as an industry issue.

    In the absence of any protection scheme there do appear to be some clear indicators:

    • Under no circumstances should we host the data directly ourselves otherwise an administrator could close things down.
    • We need a contract with the hosting company that guarantees continued access to the data for a specified period.


    This doesn't provide protection should the hosting company go under so perhaps it is necessary to have a second provider mirroring the data? All this puts up the cost of the solution though!
    You don't necessarily have to mirror the hosts but have a recent enough backup / export to be able to launch it with another hosting service.

    They only issue with that is finding 2 companies that you can almost instantly migrate between.
    RackSpace, Amazon and Microsoft all have facilities for migration between services.

    But either way you'd need to have your solution in at least 2 geographically separate locations for DR.

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    matt40k's Avatar
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    The OP was directed at the new problems introducted with cloud - I think the wider problem exists today, ie the risk of running something with zero support. Keep the lights on whilst you rush to the exit should be the same for a cloud solution as it is self-hosted solution. I say should from the point of view of not all of the cloud solution use the same setup and some are better then others. To add a bit of context, I don't have any extra fears of SIMS8 over SIMS7 that the cloud assuming Phil does his two points (and ideally the third)*.

    Capita having an escrow agreement so we can get at the code, but we need that emergency planning group that Phil is taking about to takeover if god forbid that day ever comes. As far as how quickly you could migrate away over, I've heard alot of optimistic statements from varies companies, but the fact of the matter is I doubt you could do in any length of time your likely to get. Let's hope we never see the day that Capita SIMS goes under - I know alot of people wish it, but the thought of migrating 18,000 schools, SIMS8 or not, pretty much overnight is a scary thought - that's before even thinking about the re-training required or any of the million things you'd have to redo.


    * I do however have fears about central hosted, but that's another story.

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    Just for the record - I'm not expecting to go under! Even if Capita did, SIMS is a very viable business that the administrators would sell on. The issue is really what contractual reassurances a customer would expect in the unlikely event of ...

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhilNeal View Post
    Just for the record - I'm not expecting to go under!
    We can only dream! Ha ha

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    Quote Originally Posted by FN-GM View Post
    We can only dream! Ha ha
    When you consider the worst case scenario of ultimately how many kids would in some way suffer as a result, I very very much wish this not to happen. It is also worrying just how much influence one organisation actually has.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GREED View Post
    When you consider the worst case scenario of ultimately how many kids would in some way suffer as a result,
    How many is that and how exactly do they suffer? What exactly are the consequences of not having an MIS for (an afternoon|a day|a week|a month). I think if we want to know what we want from a supplier in terms of guaranteed continuity, we have to know what the consequences are. Do people die? Is it just inconvenience and inefficiency?

    Design your cloud system as a platform that can be run from anywhere (basically a vm), offer a replication service - perhaps to the customer site, perhaps to another independent host. If you go into administration, the licence reverts to a perpetual licence and the customer can pick up from the back up system. Those that want the guarantee have solid assurance that the system works (they can actually test it) and can pay the overhead! Job done.

  9. Thanks to pcstru from:

    mikecampbell (27th June 2014)

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    [QUOTE=pcstru;1193026]How many is that and how exactly do they suffer? What exactly are the consequences of not having an MIS for (an afternoon|a day|a week|a month). I think if we want to know what we want from a supplier in terms of guaranteed continuity, we have to know what the consequences are. Do people die? Is it just inconvenience and inefficiency?/QUOTE]

    At the wrong time of year, say 2 weeks prior to exam results download, catastrophic. You work in a school you tell me.

    How about schools that rely on alerting to absence of vulnerable students.

    How about the basics like contact information during an incident at the school?

    Perhaps schools themselves should be prepared for not having their MIS for a day/week/month... see what the results would be.

    The effects at the wrong time of year on student learning too where the stresses of staff reflect onto the kids...

    This is a lot more intricate than just not having access to their administration system. I suppose it depends on how embedded your mis is in your school, or any school.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GREED View Post
    At the wrong time of year, say 2 weeks prior to exam results download, catastrophic. You work in a school you tell me.
    I struggle to know! It's easier in a business to put an actual value on even just an inefficient process (let alone one in failure). In a school, systems failures are disruptive but no one actually dies. If there is a risk of people actually dying (say medical information), then the processes need to ensure that the process is still robust if (say) someone's wifi isn't working, i.e. a very partial failure of system provision. Generally, even a total failure of the MIS would be a right royal pain, but it is inconvenience and inefficiency that will result, not body bags.

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    Totally agree, has to be put into perspective. There are some items that I would say put lives at risk, not knowing where a vulnerable child is, are they in school and what not.

    But generally in the industry the levels of catastrophe are one of learning impact... still a vital consideration.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcstru View Post
    I struggle to know! It's easier in a business to put an actual value on even just an inefficient process (let alone one in failure). In a school, systems failures are disruptive but no one actually dies. If there is a risk of people actually dying (say medical information), then the processes need to ensure that the process is still robust if (say) someone's wifi isn't working, i.e. a very partial failure of system provision. Generally, even a total failure of the MIS would be a right royal pain, but it is inconvenience and inefficiency that will result, not body bags.
    Your prob right, but remember it only takes 1 and in Capita case with school count in the thousands, that's pretty bad odds to gamble with. Just think about if a child's "Uncle" learnt about the school being without it's MIS and went and collected the child.

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    CAM
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    Hmm, I don't use a cloud system but if I did it would need to be recoverable if the company goes under. A MIS which uses a standard way of storing data and allowing it to be exchanged between one system and another would be ideal. Then the data can be grabbed, moved and imported into the replacement product quickly and easily.

    It doesn't even have to be the full set of data if we are talking about this level of nightmare scenario. So long as the minimum data to keep the current on-roll kids safe and the school running can be obtained and re-imported elsewhere would be ideal. Assessment grades as an example wouldn't be as big an issue as most SLT's insist on assessment data being dumped on a spreadsheet somewhere on the shared staff drive anyway.

    Of course, if the company goes down you may not get access to the data if there is no recovery period before the plug is pulled. Maybe a local backup?
    Last edited by CAM; 27th June 2014 at 10:05 AM.

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    A few years back water got into the SIMS servers in two schools in NI. The heads of those schools said they would not open if SIMS was not operational. Fortunately the local team repaired the damage in time.

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    @CAM there are a lot of subjectives in that statement there mate. Just because in your experience assessment information might be available elsewhere because teachers export it (which technically is against the ethos of the central MIS!) doesn't mean that that is policy for all Capita customers. Assessment information to some schools might be critical (Independent schools for example would value this over attendance and behaviour!). Same with admissions, in fact I would argue for a private school, future intake (so next years money) is as important as the current on roll kids data. Without that and a way to contact those prospects, the school would go under! Ok Ok extreme I know but I don't think there can be any hard and fast rules about what data is and isn't important for the entire population.

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