Gartner: U.S. Firms Unprepared for Disasters

A large percentage of U.S. companies are unprepared to face business and IT
outages caused by a severe calamity, according to the results of a survey
released by research firm Gartner Dataquest Tuesday.

The survey found that one third of U.S. businesses face the loss of
critical data or operational capability in the wake of a disaster, unless
investments toward disaster preparedness planning are made.

“More prioritized investments must be made to ensure that businesses can
quickly regain productivity after a calamity,” said Tony Adams, principal
analyst for Gartner Dataquest’s IT Services group. “Preparation is the key,
and without adequate investment for protection of critical systems, the
repercussions of disasters will be lengthier and more costly.”

But cost is one of the primary reasons many of the companies surveyed cited
for not having a disaster preparedness plan. Gartner said 24 percent of the
respondents said lack of funds was the root for not initiating a formal
disaster plan.

“IT managers are not investing appropriately in disaster plans because they
do not have a budget to accomplish their needed readiness,” Adams said.
“Budget constraints are forcing an average of 40 percent of respondents to
rely on a ‘best guess’ to determine potential risk rather than obtaining
formal assessments, which would be too costly.”


Funding is also hampering the efforts of companies that do have an
organizational disaster plan in place. The survey found that 37 percent of
IT managers who have a plan lack the funding to get those plans to a
“satisfactory” level.


However, Adams noted that businesses have become more aware of the need for
disaster planning.

“The good news is that businesses now more widely understand that they must
prepare in advance to solve the complex logistical and personnel problems
inherent in a disaster,” Adams said. “Responsible leaders will rely on
preparatory investment to better the odds of surviving such a hit to their
business.”


Most disaster preparedness experts say that sophisticated real-time remote
backup capabilities are the foundation of disaster recovery plans. In other
words, it’s all about redundancy, redundancy and more redundancy.


In the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, Lee Clarke, associate professor of Sociology
at Rutgers University — and an expert in organizations, technology and
disasters — told
Internetnews.com that the redundancy must be “meaningful,” which is
not always taken into account. For instance, Clarke noted that many of the
organizations in the World Trade Center had their disaster facilities in
one of the other towers or buildings that were part of the complex.


Other experts said effective plans begin outside the existence of a
specific attack by identifying critical operations and building off-site
facilities that can serve those needs. They also said exercising the plan
regularly, so that employees can respond to an emergency without thinking
about it, is key.

Gartner surveyed 205 U.S. professionals for the report, noting that the
respondents were responsible for, or knowledgeable about, their
organizations’ business continuity and disaster recovery planning. The firm
said it administered the survey via the Web in November 2002.

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