CDW Poll: Enterprises Confident in Network Resilience Despite Disruptions

One quarter of respondents said they experienced a "significant network disruption" in the last year

Results of a new poll by CDW LLC, a multi-brand technology solutions source, reveal a dichotomy when it comes to network resilience. The report found that "82 percent felt confident that their IT resources could sustain disruptions and support operations effectively, [but] 97 percent admitted network disruptions had detrimental effects on their businesses in the last year."

CDW's Business Continuity Straw Poll surveyed 200 IT decision makers at midsize and large U.S. enterprises that had experienced "significant network disruptions" (those lasting at least four hours) since July 2009. The company wanted to know the businesses' reaction to the problems and what measures are being taken to improve their business continuity/disaster recovery (BC/DR) capabilities.

CDW's conservative estimate is U.S. enterprises lost about $1.7 billion in profits last year due to the disruptions.

“The survey confirms that while many businesses believe they are prepared for an unplanned network disruption, many are not -- and yet the three most common causes of IT outages are addressable,” said Norm Lillis, CDW vice president, system solutions.

The top cause of disruptions was power loss; one-third of businesses said it was the cause of their latest disruption. Hardware failures were cited as the cause of 29 percent of network outages, followed by facilities' loss of telecom services (21 percent).

“Through more preparation, testing, and improved network accessibility, businesses can improve BC/DR plans and have real confidence in business operations during unplanned disruptions,” Lillis said.

The survey pointed out that more attention needs to be paid to advanced preparation, along with better support for employees with network access. Although 53 percent of poll takers said employees could work from home when there's a foreseeable network disruption (such as the approach of bad weather), only one-third of businesses "activate standby communications and network systems to support increased remote access when warned of such an event." In fact, the report explains, although respondents said that an average of 44 percent of their workforce normally has work-from-home options, only 39 percent of them could take advantage of that option during their latest network outage.

Disruptions take their toll on an enterprise. Over half of businesses (57 percent) said they lost productivity; 34 percent lost communication with customers, and 30 percent said they had a complete business shutdown.

Half (51 percent) of respondents said they'd experienced "problems connecting to their IT network from other locations"; 50 percent had difficulty connecting from inside their own business. Nearly one-third (29 percent) said employees had difficulties communicating with each other using internal phone systems and/or e-mail during the outage, and 28 complained that their networks were "slower than expected and could not support the increased traffic from remote locations."

That doesn't mean all enterprises are just standing still. Just over a third (34 percent) say they are updating their BC/DR plans, improving network connectivity (30 percent) extending BC/DR coverage to handle disruptions of 72 or more hours (23 percent), or updating plans to be more proactive when faced with forecasted interruptions or threats (22 percent). Other businesses said they "are focusing closely on connectivity and mobility issues to ensure employees have access to data at all times and from all locations." One in five businesses, however, isn't planning an immediate change to their BC/DR plan.

The full straw poll report includes recommendations about improving enterprise BC/DR plans. It's available at no cost at www.cdw.com/BusinessContinuityReport; a short registration form must be completed for access.