What is a single point of failure?

A single point of failure (SPOF) is any software, hardware, or other flaw that can bring down a system when something catasts articlerophic happens. To prevent downtime and achieve high availability and reliability,mission-critical systems should not have a SPOF. This article discusses the best practices to detect and avoid single points of failure and presents some common examples of SPOFs. For a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solution with failover and load balancing capabilities, download Parallels® RAS.

How to identify a single point of failure

To formulate a mitigation strategy that will address SPOFs, you need to identify these weak points first. This is crucial to prevent potential SPOFs from adversely affecting your operations sometime in the future.

To catch an SPOF early on, consider all factors carefully during system design. The business impact analysis and risk assessment stages are the best times for identifying potential SPOFs.

The hardware comprising your IT infrastructure is a good starting point in this process. If you find any hardware without any accompanying redundancy, identify what will happen to your network when something happens to it and adopt the proper measure to mitigate the impact.

Once you are done identifying potential issues with your hardware, repeat the process for your services and people. Do not hesitate to source help from experts during the identification process, particularly if you do not have enough experienced people.

Past the design stage, prepare a list of all systems and system components used in your organization, including storage devices, servers, internet service providers (ISPs), and networks.

Since SPOF identification is often challenging, you should encourage project team members to participate fully in the process. As it is probable that some people may hesitate to disclose potential points of failure in the system if they get sanctioned, clearly communicate to the team that the end goal of the process is to have a stable and reliable system once it goes into production, not to punish people.

Examples of a single point of failure

Among the many examples of SPOF in the real world are:

Protection against a single point of failure

Once you have identified SPOFs in your infrastructure, you can formulate your mitigation strategy.

SPOF protection strategy components

A typical strategy would include the following actions:

SPOF protection strategy samples

Protection against the SPOFs mentioned in the previous section can come easily when planned for in advance.

For the single server running a mission-critical system, there are a few solutions. One is to distribute the workload over several servers. To ensure that servers do not reach their maximum capacity and fail abruptly, you can put a load balancer that distributes workloads across the servers. Having one or more failover servers that can take over workloads automatically when the main server crashes is another solution.

For the single network switch used to connect several servers, redundant network switches and connections are useful for continued access in case the main switch goes down.

For the single ISP, signing up with one or more backup ISPs means slimmer chances of your organization losing its access to the internet completely.

For the sole employee assigned to a major system, knowledge transfer sessions and rotating people so that other employees can learn about the system lessen the potential impact of sudden resignation.

Common SPOFs in businesses

The more common SPOFs that may hound a business include:

Protect your data with Parallels RAS

As a VDI solution, Parallels RAS offers failover and load balancing capabilities.

Parallels RAS enables deployment of virtualized applications and desktops across various locations, including your own on-premises data center or private cloud, or any of the supported cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. This is a failover feature in case a location becomes inaccessible, you can shift your users to the other locations and ensure continued access.

Aside from failover, Parallels RAS also offers load balancing, and other features. With load balancing, Parallels RAS prevents a server from failing due to a system crash caused by workload overload. For multiple Parallels RAS gateways, high-availability load balancing (HALB) is available. HALB distributes incoming connections dynamically to healthy gateways and avoids gateways that are encountering issues.

Other noteworthy Parallels RAS features that can help reduce potential data loss are:

To see how the platform can help in your data protection efforts,

Download the Trial