The Show Must Go On for Businesses With Continuous Availability

By: Mijee Briana Walker| - Leave a comment


In 1941, Elisabeth Sanxay Holding wrote, “The hotel business is like the theater. No matter what happens, the show must go on.” Circuses and theaters have been practicing continuous availability using business continuity and disaster recovery techniques since the 19th century — albeit not as we know them today. Today’s modern businesses, including hotels, can take some cues from the stage to continue performing in this always-on world.

From the age of 10, I have been performing in local theatrical productions. Looking back, I realize this was my first chance to observe business continuity and disaster recovery planning in action because you quickly learn that the show must go on, no matter what happens to the cast, crew, set, or tech. Talk about a lesson in continuous availability.

Theaters plan for a select set of scenarios that could occur because they know that there will be a live, paying audience expecting to see a great show. In this way, theaters plan for continuous availability much like we do for business. Here are some examples of a few recovery scenarios for which theaters develop plans.


In theater, there is normally an understudy identified for the lead roles. This person learns every aspect of the role alongside the person cast in the lead and most likely will never get a chance to perform the role in front of an audience. But if the lead gets sick or injured, the understudy is expected to perform with no prior notice.

In the business world, we also train understudies to take over a role. In business continuity planning, we do this by cross-training resources within and across departments. In planning for an IT disaster, we can think of our disaster recovery solution as our understudy for production systems.

What’s My Line?

Occasionally, no matter how many times a script has been rehearsed, a line will be forgotten in the middle of a performance. When this happens, there are two options:

  • Your fellow cast members may be able to save you by giving you a subtle hint or incorporating the missed note into their next line.
  • If all else fails, the stage manager often stays on script, ready to provide a cue if a line is forgotten.

When businesses forget their line (i.e., lose their data), we use backups or replication to recover. If backups and replication are actively managed, data should be recoverable and continuously available.

Unpredictable Technical Problems

I can recall an instance when a theater actually caught on fire in the middle of a performance. The audience did not want to evacuate the seats because they were convinced it was part of the show. The cast and crew ultimately went on to complete the performance once the incident was under control.

Actors train for unpredictable events by learning the art of improvisation. The crew and theater management team make crisis management plans to ensure the audience is always safe. This same scenario also applies in the business world, whether it’s ensuring the safety and security of your employees or your data. A business can easily experience an unpredictable technical problem, and the ability to hit the ground running with a response is key.

Continuous Availability: The Show Must Go On

In summation, there will always be the possibility of unpredictable events. Toilets overflow, causing water to leak into the data center; a bedbug infestation impacts productivity and concentration because employees are concerned that their homes could have been infected as well; or maybe it’s an extreme scenario you can’t even yet imagine.Organizations can’t plan for every possible scenario, but they can plan how they will address unknown events efficiently and effectively to ensure the show will go on with continuous availability. Now, break a leg, everyone!

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About The Author

Mijee Briana Walker

Asia Pacific Leader for IBM Resiliency Services

Mijee Briana Walker is the Asia Pacific Leader for IBM Resiliency Services. With 20 years in Information Technology, she has worked with companies around the world to help them determine how they can best achieve their availability and continuity goals - from both a business and technology perspective. She has consulted on resiliency programs for businesses on 6 continents, while working with industries that included financial services, banking, telecommunications, healthcare, casinos, hotels, utilities, distribution, government, and education. Mijee is an experienced speaker on resiliency topics, including disaster recovery, business continuity, crisis management, and resiliency program governance.

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