All Aboard: How to Minimize Downtime for Mass Transit With Business Continuity Management

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By: Jacqueline Lee|

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Public transit relies heavily on behind-the-scenes technology to maximize efficiency and minimize downtime. The applications, networks and systems that support dispatch management, route optimization, scheduling, driver data and accounting are vital to operations. To enable fast service restoration, mass transit providers need distributed backup and effective recovery solutions.

Storage and Disaster Recovery Challenges for Public Transit

According to NetworkComputing, too many disaster-recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) providers offer nothing more than cloud backup, depriving customers of the managed services that support recovery and restoration. Reliable backup is only one side of the coin when it comes to disaster recovery — the act of restoring systems, applications and their supporting data also requires available infrastructure and IT staff with the skills to manage the recovery process.

Better Storage Management Options

Many storage solutions don’t offer management for multiple operating systems and applications within one single interface. In this situation, IT ends up trying to patchwork disaster recovery from multiple sources, including tapes stored either remotely or on-premises.

Any business continuity management (BCM) plan should incorporate both hot sites, which are physical locations where copies of critical systems are kept, and remote sites, where IT environment replicas can be accessed via the internet. However, the real challenge is recovering everything from distributed and redundant data centers and making all systems functional again, particularly when local hardware, network connections and power supplies are unavailable.

Key Concepts to Minimize Downtime

Public transit IT needs to start managing both on-premises and cloud workloads as one single pool of resources. Proactively evolving to this state before threats to public transportation occur is the best way to minimize downtime after this type of event.

Additionally, public transit agencies should set recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs) before a disaster strikes. RPOs set the point in time to which a firm restores its systems, and RTOs quantify how long a system can stay offline before the organization experiences unacceptable losses.

Reliable backup and restore, including hosted backup in distributed data centers, is important for BCM in large public transit organizations. Automation should also be a major feature, giving organizations the chance to leverage automated incremental or differential backups, along with periodic full backups, to meet their RPOs.

Last, public transit systems must be able to recover and function in the cloud if needed, which means avoiding DRaaS providers that set unrealistic time limits. Because public transit provides such an important societal service, providers need DRaaS that helps them meet their RTOs — especially when onsite systems won’t be available for some time.

BCM: Protecting Public Transit for Today and Tomorrow

Established public transit hubs achieved public buy-in a long time ago, but newer public transit initiatives outside the Northeast Corridor are struggling to compete when it’s all too easy to get in a car or request an Uber. BCM isn’t just about keeping today’s transit systems up and running; it’s also about building a sustainable future within tomorrow’s smart cities.

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) recently commissioned a study to see how public transportation investments in three emerging tech hubs — the Historic Technology District in Texas, Research Triangle Park in North Carolina and the Silicon Beach Innovation District in California — could influence the local economy in these locations. If each city implements its long-range transportation plan, the investment in public transportation could yield more than $177 billion in cumulative business sales through 2040, $78 billion in wage income and $106 billion in additional GDP.

The APTA also predicts analytics-powered technologies such as mobile payments and route optimization will make consumers highly motivated to take advantage of public transportation. Proactive BCM, supported by distributed data centers and cloud backup options, keeps existing systems going and doesn’t let downtime get in the way of widespread mass transit adoption.

Infrastructure: More Than Vehicles and Routes

In addition to repairing damaged tunnels, power substations, signals and passenger stations, mass transit providers have to think about recovering the IT infrastructure that supports their operations. In both new and established mass transit systems, BCM improves safety while helping to minimize downtime and win public buy-in.

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About The Author

Jacqueline Lee

Freelance Writer

Jacqueline Lee specializes in business and technology writing, drawing on over 10 years of experience in business, management and entrepreneurship. Currently, she blogs for HireVue and IBM, and her work on behalf of client brands has appeared in Huffington Post, Forbes, Entrepreneur and Inc. Magazine. In addition to writing, Jackie works as a social media manager and freelance editor. She's a member of the American Copy Editors Society and is completing a certificate in editing from the Poynter Institute.

Articles by Jacqueline Lee
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