Police are increasingly relying on digital infrastructure. The problem is that if that if it fails, lives could be at stake. Here's how the cloud can help.
In January, Canadian police were hit with a major network outage that prevented them from accessing critical resources required to do their jobs. The outage, it is reported, started around 11:30 PM ET on Wednesday, January 18, and continued until 3 PM ET on the 19. Evidently, the whole thing originated with a router failure which also impacted "mobile computer workstations in RCMP police cruisers and two other crucial internal RCMP databases," according to CBC news.
This is not the first such outage suffered by the organization - their networks have reportedly gone down "more than a dozen times since last spring," reports CBC.
Here's the issue with that. When an outage occurs in the enterprise world, it could cost millions of dollars. When one occurs for essential services such as those used by the police, it could cost lives - both officer and civilian.
It is incredibly fortunate that the Canadian police were not forced to deal with any crisis situations during any of their outages. Had disaster struck, the officers would have been flying blind. They would have been unable to respond in a timely fashion, and unable to access information about a developing situation.
I needn't emphasize why that's a bad thing.
For an organization like the Canadian Police - an organization which saves lives and protects people - it's imperative that computing infrastructure be both robust and redundant. They need to be assured that no matter what happens, they'll have access to critical resources when they are required. And here's where the cloud comes in.
Through the use of a cloud load balancing platform, it's possible to configure a system with near 100% uptime - a concept referred to in general terms as ‘cloud resilience.' It's possible to have an automated system that kicks in whenever critical infrastructure goes down, providing the necessary resources to stay online even in the event of hardware failure. And for government organizations like police or firefighters, I'd argue that it's absolutely necessary.
"Resilient systems are the first step to preserving availability in the event of a system failure," writes The Register's Dave Cartwright. "One server dies, a second server takes up the load either by taking over the role of the original server (in an active/passive system) or by soaking up the load of the first server as well as its own (in an active/active system)."
Of course, there are challenges to implementing such resilience. You need to determine which systems qualify as critical enough to apply cloud failover. Do you need to replicate the majority of your infrastructure, or are there certain systems and storage mediums you can afford to have offline for a short period if the worst should happen?
You also need to ensure you have sufficient bandwidth for the systems and applications you want to make resilient. There's no point having cloud failover, for example, if it causes things to lag to the point that they're unusable. Make sure you understand how much computing power each of your critical systems utilizes, and make sure you can spin-up cloud replacements that have just as much power.
When your IT department is dealing with a systems failure, you don't want to force your officers and first responders to fly blind. If you're equipped with a cloud failover solution, they won't have to.