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Disaster recovery shortchanged by business execs

Data center disaster recovery and business continuity are crucial to a businesses bottom line, but a new study shows business execs aren't making disaster recovery a priority.

A new study conducted by the research firm Harris Interactive Inc. reveals that 71% of IT managers believe disaster recovery and business continuity (DRBC) is very important or crucial to business success, versus only 49% of business executives -- showing the glaring difference in priorities between IT folks and those outside the data center.

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Similarly, more IT executives (66%) than business executives (54%) said planning for uninterrupted information availability should be a top priority. The upshot is that IT isn't receiving the budgets necessary to achieve the rapidly declining recovery timeframe, according to the survey.

At the same time, the survey also found that both IT managers and business executives polled have a tolerance for downtime of five hours or less, but business executives are less likely than their IT co-workers to place a high priority on DRBC planning.

"The biggest change in the industry is time. What was once considered tolerable downtime is unacceptable today. Four to five hours at the most is tolerable now," said Dave Palmero, a spokesperson for SunGard.

Outsourcing backup data centers a viable option

SunGard, which commissioned the Harris Interactive survey, provides data center backup services to prevent downtime when power, hardware and networks fail.

Third-party companies, like SunGard, work with businesses to develop contingency plans for unexpected downtime, so companies do not have to invest in building their own backup data center.

Even though building a remote data center can be quite an investment, many IT managers are hesitant to outsource, said Dan Golding, Tier-1 research analyst.

"Most folks attempt data backup themselves, and they do it poorly. People only keep data backups in their data center, or if they build a backup facility, often times it is in the same city, which doesn't help when a disaster hits," Golding said. "People tend to think it is more cost effective to do it themselves, but usually it isn't."

Outsourcing data backup services has shown to be at least 25% more cost effective than creating an efficient failover system on the company dime, according to a study called "Ensuring Information Availability: Aligning Customer Needs with an Optimal Investment Strategy," also commissioned by SunGard

Golding said 25% savings seems conservative when considering the cost of building a backup data center, paying for power and staff to operate it.

"The biggest issue is building. With data center space selling for $13 per square foot, it can cost anywhere from $60 million to $100 million," Golding said. "I imagine it is pretty difficult for a CIO to walk into a boardroom and request $100 million for a backup facility."

Mobile, prefab data centers for disaster recovery, business continuity

A simple Internet search yields hundreds of data backup providers offering disaster recovery tips, software and facilities. Sun Microsystems Inc. and Rackable Systems both started selling mobile data centers recently that companies can use as remote backup data centers, for instance.

SunGard has a fleet of fully operational mobile data centers located throughout the US to help businesses get up and running again, within one hour of arrival, as well as 30 brick and mortar facilities in the US. SunGard's Advanced Recovery services cover server, storage and iSeries replication, vaulting, network recovery and standby operating systems imaging.

Businesses essentially rent backup servers and storage from SunGard, and when their servers go offline, the backup system at SunGard's remote facility is used as a failover.

The first step is identifying what is critical to the business operations and to make sure those systems are backed up, Palmero said.

Companies should have key decision makers from all parts of the business -- operations, finance, human resources and IT and list the company systems that must be up and running quickly following an interruption, Palmero added.

"It is not something that should be decided upon during a crisis," Palmero said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Bridget Botelho, News Writer

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