Analysts: Continuity Lessons From Blackout, Disasters

Changes in the storage market for lower-cost data replication could be a part of improving business continuity plans. However, analysts say many IT managers and CIOs still don't heed the disaster warnings.

Last summers major power blackout proved a wakeup call for IT managers to examine business continuity plans. Analysts say that some have taken advantage of new data replication solutions and technologies that can span geographically distinct locations to mitigate the effects of a blackout or other calamity.

Still, a year after the six-state outage, analysts and storage vendors suggest a good number of CIOs continue to be reluctant to spend their budgets on the possibility of disaster.

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead more here about how some companies have implemented disaster and continuity plans.

The study by a joint U.S. and Canadian commission uncovered that uncorrected voltage fluctuations—and the failure to trim trees that ended up falling into power lines—were to blame for the Aug. 14, 2003 outage. The end cost for the damages was roughly $10 billion, according to reports.

The major power blackout and even more, the 9/11 terrorist attack, brought home the concept of disaster recovery planning to some enterprises, analysts said.

"Our perspective with our client base is that theyve developed a lot of interest [in disaster recovery]," said Maneesh Mehra, the Houston-based manager of PriceWaterhouseCoopers advisory services group.

"At a lot of organizations, systems operators, people plugged into the grid, received a wakeup call," he said. "The infrastructure focus had not been there…what were looking for are systemic long-term changes in control room organizations."

New York Citys financial district is at the center of a "perfect storm" of market forces driving solutions in business continuity analysts said. The regulatory activity prompted by insider trading scandals, the threat of terrorism, and to a lesser extent, health care regulation, are all factors said Peter Gerr, an analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group, in Milford, Mass. However, the impact of the terrorist attack on the city had a much greater impact than the blackout, he estimated.

Outside the bustle of Manhattan, however, corporate attitudes toward disaster recovery seem to be moving along more slowly.

"I dont think [the blackout] did much," according to Brad Wenzel, who runs a small storage integration company in Stillwater, Minn., with a client list that includes Boeing Co. and Honeywell International Inc. He said customers have plans in place to off-load their data to another location, but have not quite made the jump to making sure its available.

"If it doesnt hit close to home, its not important," Wenzel said. "Thats human nature. The problem is high availability. Providing five nines of uptimes is extremely expensive and $100 million or so is a lot of money to spend. Nobody likes to spend money on [insurance]."

Still the market is moving, albeit slowly.

In a Harris Poll commissioned by SunGard Availability Services, of Wayne, Penn., C-level executives at Fortune 1000 firms or their designates were polled to address the issue of disaster recovery and information availability. About 60 percent of those polled said they plan to increase spending on information availability, and those who plan to increase spending expect an increase of 25.5 percent in 2004.

PriceWaterhouseCooperss Mehra said increased spending is an indication that IT is being brought to the table in making data availability decisions, a strategy that hes encouraging his clients to pursue.

Next Page:Replication is the Hot New Continuity Topic.