Keeping disaster recovery in mind: what to ask WMS vendors
From fires and floods to glitches in outdated hardware and ransomware strikes, several different factors can lead to significant data centre outages that impact the warehouse. Unfortunately, many warehouse managers don’t prepare for these circumstances or consider whether the tools they have put in place are resilient enough to endure a “disaster.”
If the solutions you use to manage your warehouse systems were to go down, what would be the impact to your organisation? Aside from possibly losing valuable data and taking a hit to productivity, you’re faced with customer satisfaction issues and the potential for complete brand erosion.
That’s why disaster recovery capabilities should be something you look at closely when evaluating potential WMS. Ask yourself:
What are the dangers of continuing to use legacy on-premise applications?
If your warehouse data was stored in legacy on-premise hardware and a fire suddenly erupted, you would be completely out of luck. You would need multiple physical machines (some housed in different locations) and likely a pre-established backup and recovery strategy in place, just to provide some level of resiliency, and even then, there’s significant risk of information loss. Transitioning to a cloud WMS with an entire ecosystem of service and offsite data storage is much safer.
Does your WMS provider have a solid disaster recovery plan in place?
Not all cloud-based warehouse management systems are created equal; the best warehouse management software providers invest significantly in their platform’s disaster recovery capabilities to ensure customers are thoroughly protected against data loss.
Imagine you drove a car with a two-litre engine and it broke down. You’d hope your courtesy car is comparable, but what if you had to get by with a smaller, one-litre engine car until your car was repaired? This is exactly what happens with WMS vendors that don’t have one-to-one disaster recovery. Their end users are stuck just getting by.
Best in class disaster recovery employs virtual replication in which the entire production environment is replicated and backed up, supporting almost instant failover with no downtime or disruption to service.
Who is hosting the application and where are the applications being served from?
When evaluating cloud WMS platforms, who hosts the application matters. Is it done by the provider’s own IT team? Or, is it third-partied out to the likes of RackSpace? Who hosts the application dictates the level of resiliency you should expect. You want to implement warehouse management software that uses an accredited and compliant hosting provider.
Where the application is served from also is an important question to ask of a cloud WMS provider. For example, you wouldn’t want to invest in a WMS that uses a hosting provider located in the heart of a congested area like central London. The influx in network traffic could mean slower connectivity and less resiliency.
Can the WMS deliver on your ideal RTO and RPO?
Recovery Time Objective (RTO) is defined as the targeted duration of time within which a business process must be restored after a disaster or disruption. Recovery Point Objective (RPO) looks at data specifically, and evaluates the amount of time during which data can be lost.
These are things you should determine before evaluating warehouse management system vendors as you want to ensure they have disaster recovery capabilities that can get you up and running or backed up within your RTO and RPO windows.
Say for example, your WMS provider can’t get their software back up and running in 12 hours, your RTO is going to be at least 12 hours. Also, if that WMS provider isn’t automatically backing up your data on a continuous basis, you run the risk of losing critical information.
Prioritize disaster recovery
Regarding setbacks impacting the warehouse – environmental or otherwise – it’s a matter of when it happens, not if it happens. Warehouse managers need to place disaster recovery on the top of their lists when evaluating WMS solutions. Not thoroughly considering things like the WMS provider’s disaster recovery capabilities, where and how the application is hosted, RTO and RPO can end up costing organisations tens of thousands of pounds. You can’t put a price on peace of mind.
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