Business Executives Don't Tie Disaster Recovery Efforts to Business Success, Study Reveals

There's a significant disconnect between IT and business executives when it comes to disaster recovery preparedness.

A new "State of Disaster Recovery" survey reveals a "significant disconnect between information technology (IT) and business executives when it comes to disaster recovery preparedness." Although both groups of executives are in agreement about the importance of information availability, they are split about how to minimize downtime when an IT outage happens.

Commissioned by SunGard Availability Services and performed by Harris Interactive, the survey found that although 83 percent IT decision-makers (of 220 qualified respondents) and 78 percent of business decision-makers (of 277 respondents) acknowledge the importance of information availability to business success, only 74 percent of IT executives and 49 percent of business executives say disaster recovery and business continuity are similarly important.

"The survey shows IT and business decision-makers really want the same things -- to avoid lost productivity and negative impact on customer satisfaction that can result from unplanned outages," said Patrick Doherty, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at SunGard Availability Services, in a statement. "There is a meaningful gap between these groups on how to achieve that goal. It is largely because the business is not connecting the requirement to keep core IT systems and applications available with overall company success. IT systems are still viewed as a 'black box' to many business executives, especially when it comes to the dependency between systems that impact overall availability."

Business executives' lack of understanding of the value of disaster recovery is manifested in project funding. "IT decision-makers were significantly more likely to say insufficient funding is among the biggest obstacles they face in developing an effective disaster recovery plan for their companies (42 percent of IT to 32 percent of business)," SunGard points out.

Disaster planning is critical: 66 percent of IT executives report a decline in the amount of tolerable downtime over the last two years. Roughly half (54 percent) of IT decision-makers say the maximum downtime period is now five hours.

One quarter of IT executives say they have inadequate resources to make effective disaster recovery plans (compared to only 11 percent of business executives); likewise, IT executives agree that investing in disaster recovery and business continuity "are more important in the current economy because their companies can't afford the risk of any unexpected downtime (33 percent of IT to 18 percent of business)."

A lack of business decision-makers' knowledge about their company's disaster recovery plans may explain the funding gap in disaster preparedness. SunGard reports that "business executives were significantly more likely to say they are unsure as to how frequently their firm's disaster recovery plans are tested (30 percent compared to 5 percent of IT) or what their plan includes (41 percent compared to 4 percent of IT)."

The solution is clear, and the report sounds the call to action: get business executives involved. "An essential step in any effective disaster recovery/business continuity plan is involving the business functions in plan development, testing, and execution. Disasters can impact operational and financial performance, regulatory compliance, and relations with customers and partners. Information availability should be viewed as [preventive] care," SunGard warns.

Among the other survey results: less than one-fifth of respondents (17 percent of IT respondents, 19 percent of business respondents) report that their company uses a third-party provider for managing their disaster recovery systems. However, over half of these respondents think the third-part offerings "are more cost effective and provide better solutions."

Contributing to the stress on IT operations is the pressure to keep unplanned IT downtime at low levels. About two-thirds (66 percent) of IT executives say the amount of downtime tolerated has grown shorter over the last two years. About 50 percent (54 percent) of IT decision-makers report their organizations can tolerate downtime of only five hours or less.

When asked to grade their company on its ability to access business-critical data after an unplanned outage, respondents were highly critical: almost one-third (30 percent) of IT executives gave their company a grade of "C" or "D".

Business respondents to the survey were at the director level (as measured by job title) in a business area. IT respondents were manager level or above in IT areas. All respondents worked in companies of at least 50 employees.

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