CDW Poll Finds Businesses Overconfident About Business Continuity

A poll of American businesses by IT product retailer CDW found that businesses may be overconfident in the resilience of their networks. They do a good job of planning, but they are still not well-equipped to handle possible disruptions.

Survey results reveal that businesses are overconfident in their business continuity and data recovery capabilities, despite all evidence to the contrary, CDW said on Sept. 29.

In a poll of 200 IT managers at medium and large businesses who had experienced network disruptions in the past year, 82 percent said that prior to the outage they'd felt confident their IT infrastructure could handle disruptions and support users effectively. Despite their optimism, nearly all-97 percent-admitted the network disruptions had a detrimental impact on business in the last year.

"The survey confirms that while many businesses believe they are prepared for an unplanned network disruption, many are not," said Norm Lillis, CDW vice president of system solutions.

A broader survey of 7,099 CDW customers revealed a little more than a quarter of the companies experienced a significant network disruption of at least 4 hours within the last year.

CDW conservatively estimated such outages cost United States businesses $1.7 billion in lost profits last year.

The two surveys were part of CDW's Business Continuity Straw Poll, which looks at how businesses deal with disruptions and measures they are taking to improve business continuity and disaster recovery processes.

Despite all their planning, disruptions still happen for a myriad of reasons, including power outages, equipment failures, telecommunications failures, cyber-security attacks, fire and natural disasters. However, the three most common causes of IT outages-power loss, hardware failures and loss of telecom services-are "addressable," according to Lillis.

Power loss accounted for about a third of business disruptions over the past year, followed by hardware failures at 29 percent and a loss of telecom services at 21 percent.

In fact, 82 percent of the most significant disruptions could be reduced or avoided by implementing a comprehensive business continuity/disaster recovery plan, CDW said.

The survey found that regardless of the nature of the disruption, half of the businesses had issues connecting to their IT network from other locations as well as internally. A little less than half of the responders said employees could not access the appropriate company resources to do their jobs and 29 percent said employees had problems communicating with each other via internal phone systems and e-mail.

The problem with the network was exacerbated by not properly expanding remote working capabilities. While 53 percent of the businesses surveyed allow employees to work from home during a foreseeable disruption, such as severe weather conditions, only a third of them have activated standby communications and network systems to support increased loads on the network.

Businesses are making alternate arrangements for users to work remotely, but they are not testing the procedures to make sure employees can access the network from home during these disruptions, CDW said.

According to the survey, the average organization offers 44 percent of its employees the telework option. The responders said on average, only 39 percent of their employees could connect to the company's resources during their most recent network outage.

The numbers don't get any better, as 30 percent of businesses said that network disruptions have brought all work to a standstill and forced the location to shut down completely until the problem was resolved.

Nearly a third of the businesses are updating their business continuity plans to address preventable network disruptions, while others are focusing on improving network connectivity and remote access to ensure employees have access to data at all times and from all locations, said CDW. About 23 percent of the businesses are considering ways to extend business continuity procedures to handle prolonged disruptions of 72 hours or more, as well.

CDW noted that about 20 percent of survey respondents are not planning any immediate changes to their business continuity/disaster recovery plans, meaning they will "almost certainly face the same complications from future disruptions."

"Through more preparation, testing and improved network accessibility, businesses can improve BC/DR plans and have real confidence in business operations during unplanned disruptions," Lillis said.