Business-critical and commercial applications defined by business
Can you give me define the differences between a "business-critical" application and a "commercial" application? It would help when we have discussions related to back-up and redundancy planning.
I believe that the difference between business critical and regular or commercial applications is really defined by the business. There is no way that I could tell you what applications are critical to your operations.
If you have a retail business, then your CRM application may be the most important. On the other hand, it may be your manufacturing or supplier management software that is the most important.
What you need to do is take a look at the impact of various applications on your business operations. Determine how much value each brings to the business and what the impact is when the application isn't there. Impact can be defined as lost revenue (that's the easy one) or lost user time but there are others more elusive definitions as well. Losses in customer reputation and goodwill, missed or slipped deadlines and increased levels of stress among employees and customers are just a few of the ways that downtime can indirectly impact your operations.
It's more than downtime that counts though. It's also data loss that may occur if a data storehouse (disk array, system, data center, etc.) is lost without proper backups (or replication) having been taken.
I would also argue that if you only define two categories (business-critical and not-business-critical), you are doing a disservice to your operations. Applications do not all neatly fall into categories. You'll find that they have varying levels of importance to a business, and that they may each deserve levels of protection.
There is no way for an outsider to determine what applications are the most valuable to your business. But, through careful examination of the pieces that make your business run, you can make the determination of what is critical and what is not.
I hope this is helpful.
Evan L. Marcus
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This was first published in September 2003