albert's analysis: Recovering E-Business: A Critical Precaution

Over the last two decades, service companies led by SunGard, IBM and Comdisco have been providing disaster recovery (business continuity services) to businesses with extensive information systems. There has been good reason for it. In the current computing environment, hundreds of things -- power failure, fire, water damage, explosion, sabotage, vandalism, or environmental problems -- could cause a computing system failure. A failure can dramatically affect the company and its relationship with its customers, and can even put the company out of business.

In these last 20 years, as everyone knows, computing technology has evolved rapidly to fit and exploit new business and technology opportunities. The latest, electronic business, is coming of age. The Web has opened a whole new way to do business. Although e-business is still evolving and is not yet at all mature, companies are jumping in. Retailers are rushing into the e-business arena. Some companies, especially Internet Service Providers (ISPs), are already dependent on their Web servers, and their ability to maintain an uninterrupted presence on the Internet.

This truth has pushed a new and increasingly necessary kind of disaster recovery planning, and it appears that IBM Business Recovery Services has taken the early lead in it. Recognizing that increasing use of the Internet to conduct business transactions has made an e-commerce recovery plan more important than ever, IBM has designed a new e-business service for Internet access, network equipment, server hardware and peripherals, and the safe backup and recovery of data. IBM two years ago began offering e-business recovery services to companies who do business out on the Web.

A unique approach to recovering a customer's Web server was developed. The Web server is important because it is typically the front door access to their image, as well as the front door to any true e-business being conducted on the Web. IBM has partnered with select ISPs to provide e-business recovery which allows IBM to dynamically redirect traffic in the network cloud to the backup Web server at the IBM recovery location, or another customer-designated facility.

The approach yields a seamless e-business experience on both sides of the transaction. The user will never have to change the URL address. The host company will experience only a very short interruption to their operations.

Viruses and hackers continue to be a threat to enterprise systems. Although a recovery plan may guard against the tangible eventualities -- hurricanes, fires, etc. -- in the new e-business world, protection against, and recovery from virus and hacker attack is essential. In the networked Internet world, hackers have unprecedented access to your IT infrastructure. An external hacker could do as much damage as a natural disaster event. IBM says its business recovery services is designed to enable clients to recover as easily from hacker attacks as from hurricanes.

This very specialized Sterling Forest, New York-based division of IBM Global Services also provides critical internet access to Internet Service Providers to enable them to re-establish their presence on the Net. If an ISP goes down, its principle service becomes unavailable, and the ISP's customers are left out to dry. However, in this case, IBM can redirect network traffic from the location experiencing an outage to an IBM business recovery services center.

In the event of an outage, whatever the cause, IBM also provides the network access, networking equipment and server equipment necessary to re-establish an e-business presence on the Internet. They provide, as well, for the back-up and recovery of the critical data needed to continue business operations. Like the other recovery services vendors, IBM is equipped with the with multi-vendor, multi-protocol networking equipment and infrastructure.

These days an e-business interruption could approach an actual business disaster. Most businesses, with the exception of ISPs, are not yet 100 percent Internet dependent. However, as online business expands, and companies depend increasingly on the Internet, an e-business recovery plan becomes as important as any plans in place to recover fixed, in-house, IT investments.

The bottom line: Create an e-business recovery plan and make it a priority!

Sam Albert is president of Sam Albert Associates (Scarsdale, N.Y.), a consulting firm that specializes in developing strategic corporate relationships. samalbert@samalbert.com.