IT 'overconfident' on disaster recovery despite 9/11

Forrester research claims corporates still can't handle catastrophe

Six years after the events of 9/11, many corporate IT operations are overconfident about their ability to handle a disaster, according to a new Forrester Research report.

The survey of 189 data centre decision makers found a severe lack of IT preparation for natural and manmade disasters.

For example, the report found that 27 percent of the respondents' data centres in North America and Europe did not run a failover site to recover data in the event of a disaster. About 23 percent of respondents said they did not test disaster recovery plans, while 40 per cent tested their plans at least once a year.

About 33 percent of respondents described their operations as "very prepared" for a manmade or natural disaster while 37 percent called their sites simply "prepared" for such events.

Forrester senior analyst, Stephanie Balaouras, said she was surprised at how "overly confident' enterprises are about their ability to confront disasters when they their preparation is actually minimal.

"Without regular testing, the chance that your disaster recovery plan will execute flawlessly during a disaster is pretty slim," said Balaouras, who wrote the report. "The last thing you want is to have no idea how to recover."

Balaouras said many enterprises were afraid of testing disaster recovery plans because they could disrupt data centre operations. For example, testing could require key production applications to be taken offline for some time, she said.

As budgets continued to tighten, IT operations and infrastructure staff faced growing challenges to justify spending on disaster recovery programs and testing, Balaouras noted.

Companies could validate such programs by determining the potential cost of downtime during disasters, including revenue lost by not closing monthly books on time, due to late payment costs and to lost worker productivity, she said.

Forrester said many companies must scramble to create disaster recovery programs as partners and strategic suppliers increasingly required the corporations they deal with to have redundant systems running offsite.

The researcher also contended that companies should have an easier time creating such operations today due to improvements in server virtualisation technology, the availability of larger bandwidth pipes, declining telecommunications costs and storage area network (SAN)-based replication.

"That alternate site doesn't have to be just idle. You can read your read-only workloads there, like reporting, or have secondary workloads like application development and testing, or you can offload backup," remarked Balarouas.