Every cloud has a silver lining

In a previous article I talked about how PiggyBank had opted to use Rackspace’s cloud for infrastructure hosting. Since then we have been steadily progressing towards the launch of our short-term loan product and along the way we have started to use other “cloud” based products.
This got us here at PiggyBank HQ thinking about some of the more serious topics that pop up in established businesses. For a group of entrepreneurial youths we thought this was very grown up and wanted to share our thoughts with you.


Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery


Business continuity and disaster recovery attempt to answer the question: “What would happen to our business if…”. The end of that question could be:

“… our server stopped working”
“… we lose our source repo”
“… our building gets hit by a meteor”
“… the power goes out”
“… we get struck by the zombie apocalypse” (maybe not this one, albeit a fun ‘what if’ discussion)

So we asked ourselves these questions (and a few more) and we decided that if these things were to happen we will be able to get our business up and running quickly, with minimal disruption and more importantly reduced loss of business. For big organisations, employing lots of staff and big hardware overheads these occurrences are very difficult and expensive to deal with. So why do we think we are prepared for them?


Infrastructure Recovery

Because we are using Rackspace’s cloud we can create new servers in about 30 minutes, and because we are billed for these by the hour we use we can spin up a new box when we need it and not incur cost.

Rackspace also have a cloud file system that we use to store server images and database backups. This means that if one of our primary servers encounters a problem or our database is corrupted, we can recover both from the cloud on demand.


Business Recovery

Everything we do here at PiggyBank HQ lives in the digital realm. From our project plans, our development plans to our business files, emails and collaborative documents. If there is ever a problem with our workspace or the utilities that support it (electricity, internet) all we need to do
is pick up our laptops, find an Internet connection and business continues. We could literally be at opposite ends of the planet and still be able to continue on with business.

When teams are small and agile this is a reality. Large teams may find this more difficult to achieve.

Here are some of the tools we use to enable this:
Basecamp – This is where we organise our projects, who is doing what and when Trello – Another project management tool, we use Trello for our Kanban process
Dropbox – File sharing system
Google Apps – Email, collaborative documents, calendars, etc
BitBucket – Distributed version control using either Git or mercurial repos


So the key is… Distribution!


We have been fortunate to find tools early on in our startup journey that complement our agility but also provide us with resilience and piece of mind and knowledge that in the event of a disaster, like a phoenix, we will rise up again. The key to this goes back to the saying “don’t put
all your eggs in one basket”. Organisations can spend millions of pounds setting up resilient architectures and infrastructures that can withstand disaster. We have distributed our business activities into the cloud on a small budget, in some cases for free.

If you are in a position of thinking about setting up a tech startup or you are in charge of IT in your company, have a look into what you can do.

Happy coding and see you soon.

P.s. In the event of a zombie apocalypse, what would be your chosen weapon?

8 thoughts on “Every cloud has a silver lining

  1. Interesting article!

    Being a freelancer, I get questions about disaster recovery and what happens when the project is complete all the time!

    I think handovers and cross training of all staff is so important. All members of staff should be able to diagnose an issue (within reason) and be able to feedback to the tech team.

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