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Business Critical Applications: An In-Depth Look

What are Business Critical Applications?

A business critical application is any application that is essential for business continuity. If a business-critical application fails or is interrupted, normal operations of the organization cannot proceed as usual. This can lead to short and long term financial losses, decreased productivity, loss of brand authority, and loss of customer trust.

Organizations often categorize their applications, assigning a level that suggests the scope of expected damages in case of a disaster. Different industries assign different priorities according to their needs, but the majority define three main types of priorities: mission critical, business critical, and non-critical or low priority applications.

This is part of our series explaining SAP on Azure.

In this article, you will learn:

Enterprises Moving Business-Critical Applications to the Cloud

On January 11, 2019, the Cloud Security Alliance released their survey, which checked the impact of cloud on enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications, as well as the state of cloud adoption.

At the time of the report, almost 70% of surveyed enterprises were in the process of migrating their ERP data and workloads to cloud environments, but expressed concerns regarding the change.

Respondents mentioned key benefits to moving their ERP systems to cloud environments:

  • Scalability—for new technologies is a key benefit of cloud migration (65% of respondents).
  • Lower cost—in ownership is a major advantage of cloud computing (61% of respondents).
  • Security—patches and regular provider updates are a great reason to migrate to the cloud (49% of respondents).

Related content: read our guide to SAP migration

Business Critical vs Mission Critical applications

There are three main types of classification that ensure organizations can maintain operations even during disasters—mission critical, business critical, and low priority.

Mission critical
Organizations rely on mission-critical systems and devices for immediate operations. If a mission critical resource suffers downtime, even brief, it can cause massive disruption and lead to negative immediate and long-term negative impacts. Mission critical workloads and devices are treated as the highest priority that must be sustained to ensure operations remain viable.

Business critical
A business-critical application is needed for long-term operations and survival, and does not always cause an immediate disaster. Organizations use a wide scope of applications during normal operations, but not all of these applications are needed to ensure immediate survival during outages and other disasters.

When a business critical application fails, it can lead to reduced productivity and poor user experience. However, the organization should still be able to function at a basic level for a few hours, without sustaining serious damage to operations and revenue. Often, the organization can resume work using existing resources or by finding alternatives to the failed system.

Non-critical or low priority
Organizations classify applications as non-critical when they can continue normal operations for long periods of time without using the application. In this case, the organization may suffer a minimal effect, but otherwise can perform all needed work. Non-critical applications are often used because the system improves productivity and simplifies operations.

Types of Critical Applications

Prioritization is often a relative metric defined according to the unique needs of the organization and industry. For example, one organization may classify a messaging system as mission critical while another might define it as business critical or even low priority. The below list of business critical applications is generally classified as such, but can be modified.

Financial Applications

A financial application provides organizations with means to handle monetary transactions and financial information. Banks offer many types of financial applications, each designed to meet certain needs. Each organization chooses the financial application that suits its needs, and then classifies and prioritizes the application according to its impact on the organization.

While the majority of organizations require a financial application to ensure a consistent stream of revenue, the payment model of the organization plays a key role in the prioritization placed on these apps.

For example, a company processing subscriptions on a monthly basis, at a certain regular time, may not be significantly impacted when experiencing a short outage. An eCommerce website that needs to process purchases during holiday times might suffer significant losses if it experiences downtime, even for a short duration.

Additionally, organizations must maintain compliance when using financial applications, to ensure the security of the transactions, and the privacy of sensitive and personal information.

Messaging Systems

Messaging systems transmit information between employees, business partners, customers, and various relevant parties. Organizations use a wide variety of messaging systems, including email applications, text messaging, and cross-functional platforms.

Often, messages contain important information, needed for normal business operations. Messages can also contain private and sensitive information, confidential data, and trade secrets. All of these communications and transmissions of information are often required to maintain normal business operations.

There are also security concerns. Email systems, for example, can expose the organization to security risks. If threat actors gain access to email accounts, they can use them to steal information, scam individuals into divulging information, use it as a point of entry into the corporate network, and perform other nefarious activities.

Legacy Systems

A legacy system often exists within the organization’s ecosystem for a long while. It is a system that has been heavily used, and perhaps has also been customized to fit the unique needs of the organization. These systems often come with a price—that paid for the initial set up, and then the cost of maintaining the system on a regular basis.

Since many legacy systems were not made to work on the cloud, they also require a wide scope of modifications when migrated. However, when legacy systems are classified as business-critical, they must be handled carefully to ensure that no disruptions occur. This is why many organizations still use legacy systems and are concerned about migrating to the cloud. A typical example of legacy systems is those used by airline systems for reservations, and very old but long used customer management systems.

Related content: read our guide to SAP Cloud security

4 Steps to Securing your Business Critical Applications

There are certain steps and measures you can take to ensure the security of your business critical applications, including:

  1. Identify applications that are truly business critical—prioritization is key to ensure business continuity during disasters. It is crucial to assess the various assets of the organizations, ascertain which is mission critical, business critical, and low priority, and then plan the appropriate strategies for security, incident response, and backup and recovery.
  2. Set up secure strategies for cloud usage—once you identify business critical applications, define which applications you want migrated to the cloud and which you prefer to leave on-premise, if at all. Outline policies for proper usage of cloud resources, and implement backup and recovery measures. Recovery is especially important to ensure you can fail over to another location using the data and applications needed for business critical operations.
  3. Implement secure access measures—business critical applications are often used by many users, but not all users require the same type of privileges. Admin credentials should not be supplied unnecessarily and should be rotated and changed often. To prevent credential theft, you should isolate sessions. You can use these sessions to create a comprehensive audit trail of privileged activity related to business critical apps.
  4. Reduce risks by setting up lines of defence—a basic measure of defense is not allowing any admin privileges to remote workstations. You should also set up anti-phishing measures, and invest in anti-phishing training for all staff and collaborators using business critical applications. The latter can help them identify, report, and prevent phishing attacks from escalating into breaches.

Business Critical Applications with Azure NetApp Files

Azure NetApp Files is a Microsoft Azure file storage service built on NetApp technology, giving you the file capabilities in Azure even your core business applications require.

Get enterprise-grade data management and storage to Azure so you can manage your workloads and applications with ease, and move all of your file-based applications to the cloud.

Azure NetApp Files solves availability and performance challenges for enterprises that want to move mission-critical applications to the cloud, including workloads like HPC, SAP, Linux, Oracle and SQL Server workloads, Windows Virtual Desktop, and more.

In particular, Azure NetApp Files allows you to migrate more applications to Azure–even your business-critical workloads–with extreme file throughput with sub-millisecond response times.

Want to get started? See Azure NetApp Files for yourself with a free demo.