Editor's Desk: No Time for Downtime

Have you seen the latest IBM ad: “AS/400e = 99.9% Reliability”? The tag line reads, “I have no time for downtime.” The ad’s timing seems rather profound as we roll through one of the worst hurricane seasons in years. Clean up from the latest hurricane to strike the United States, Georges, has already begun. IBM Business Recovery Services says it helped over 30 companies get back on their feet.

As many as 75,000 customers in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi were still without power as a result of Hurricane Georges nearly seven days after the hurricane first made U.S. landfall. Insurance experts place damage estimates in the United States and the Caribbean at $2 billion, making Georges the fourth costliest hurricane ever.

Hearing these reports reminds me of an ominous statistic from the Gartner Group. According to Gartner, 60 percent of all companies hit by a catastrophic event or power outage are out of business within two years. Two-thirds of that 60 percent never resumed business operations, while the remainder slowly succumbed to the disaster’s effects.

Today’s business climate is vastly different from the one I entered as I left college in the late 1980s. It really is now a 24 X 7 global economy and, although heavily promoted and over e-xposed, e-business is still a reality.

If you don’t believe me, check out the latest market research to come out of the International Data Corp.’s (IDC) Internet Executive Forum held in San Jose, Calif. last month. IDC estimates that the U.S. Internet economy will reach $124 billion by the end of 1998. The total worldwide Internet economy, which now totals $200 billion, will reach $950 billion by 2002. Imagine the damage wrought in this type of economy by seven days without electricity.

Let’s not dwell on the wanton destructiveness of nature, although it grabs all the headlines. While downtime is a constant menace, most of us will never face down a Hurricane Georges. According to a quote from Softwrite Computer Systems, one of their clients claims the only AS/400 downtime they ever had was when the spring broke on the on/off switch. The client fixed it with a piece of tape.

Springs and storms aside, what about the more mundane nature of planned downtime? If e-business means the door is always open, when do you have time to do backups, maintenance and upgrades? When do you have time to take care of Year 2000 and Euro conversions?

Part of the successful equation is operating your business on a reliable system like an AS/400. The AS/400’s impressive and documented track record of 99.9 percent reliability, equates to just over 8.5 hours a year of downtime. The remainder of the equation is knowing which applications in your environment need to be continuously available and having the resources to make it so.

However, e-business demands more than reliability and availability from your information systems. It’s a companywide effort that should be driven from the top down.

Does your company carry enough property, liability and business interruption insurance? Are you using geographically dispersed AS/400s and cluster management software? Do you have a business recovery plan?

“I have no time for downtime.” Tell that to Hurricane Georges, a southern California earthquake, a Mississippi flood or any other act of nature or man that could threaten your company’s very existence.

What are you going to do to make sure you are not one of Gartner’s 60 percent?