RealTime IT News

Ringing (False?) Alarm Bells

Everyone knows that an asteroid the size of Mars is going to crash into the Earth, ending life as we know it. Some day. In the next million years.

In the meantime, more immediate dangers are lurking in the form of hurricanes and pandemics, wreaking potentially disastrous effects on human resources, supply chains and, of course, corporate profits.

Leave it to experienced hands, then, to use heightened awareness of these impending disasters to trumpet their disaster recovery services.

With the 2006 hurricane season under way, IBM and HP , fierce competitors in global IT services and consulting, are about to announce disaster preparedness and recovery solutions, internetnews.com has learned.

IBM is announcing its solution today, with HP following suit tomorrow.

The plans vary in the particulars, but the general theme remains the same: Figure out how your company could be affected by a disaster, and then plan ahead to safeguard your business.

Of course, most large enterprises are already onto this idea.

As Laura DiDio, an analyst with the Yankee Group, put it, "if you don't have a contingency plan at this point, you have to be living under a rock."

But according to Brent Woodworth, worldwide segment manager for the IBM crisis response team, many of these contingency plans are more reactive than pro-active.

"When we look at [those] plans, they're not really recovery plans; they're response plans," he told internetnews.com.

John Bennett, worldwide director of HP's business continuity and availability solutions division, also noted that although three-quarters of companies have such contingency plans, only half of them test the plans on a regular basis.

In the interim, companies grow, tweak their infrastructure in subtle ways and undergo changes in personnel.

"Then when you have to execute the plan, you find it's not quite right," Bennett said.

IBM's solution, dubbed the Contingency Planning Assessment, offers customers a detailed assessment of key HR, communications, supply chain, IT, facilities, security and customer support policies, as well as disaster preparedness recommendations.

Pricing for small- and medium-sized companies ranges from $10,000 to $35,000; the solution for large enterprises is priced at $50,000 to $150,000, to take into account the greater complexity of issues that larger companies face.

Woodworth explained that IBM has enormous experience that allows it to offer more in-depth and wide-ranging planning than companies can do on their own.

"We know where this guy Murphy hides," he noted. "And it's different in every instance."

IBM and HP each emphasized that their plan takes a holistic view of the customers' business, with an emphasis on recovery and business continuity.

HP's solution includes an online assessment that customers can access for free. Bennett explained that customers would typically be encouraged to contact HP for a more thorough action plan to address gaps revealed by the assessment.

HP's BC&A includes a full range of potential solutions, from back-up data centers in the event of flooding to call center staff if a pandemic were to strain a customer's human resources.

Bennett told internetnews.com that the total market for business continuity and availability solutions could be anywhere from $40 billion to $50 billion.

The market includes fail-over servers, storage and IT services, as well as risk assessment, planning and the use of recovery centers and solutions.