Canada still flirting with disaster recovery

DALLAS — Canadian companies are ill prepared to protect their data in the event of another Sept. 11 or another Ice Storm, according to Veritas Software Corp.

Disaster recovery (DR) has been a major topic of discussion at Veritas

Vision 2002 this week, with most of the talk from Veritas executives concerning a lack of preparedness among companies the world over. When asked about their DR plans, Veritas users at the said their enterprises are fully equipped to handle a disaster scenario or else declined to comment on the matter altogether.

According to Veritas, only 28 per cent of companies worldwide have a disaster recovery plan, while 32 per cent have a second data facility and 39 per cent have sufficient data capacity to outlast a disaster. Taken together, that means only 12.5 per cent of companies stand a chance of doing DR successfully, according to Veritas.

Though the tally of Canadian figures is not yet complete, Veritas Software Canada general manager Fred Dimson said preliminary results indicate the Canadian numbers will mimic the global average. Veritas’ figures are based on surveys the company did of its customers at DR seminars held over the past few months. A total of 12,000 users attended the seminars, including 2,000 who attended the seminars given by Veritas in seven Canadian cities between January and April of this year.

“Generally, there is a small subset that doesn’t have any plans,” Dimson said of Canadian companies. “There are a number that have a partial plan that they’ve never tested. There’s a group that have plans but don’t test them regularly. And the larger entities do have plans and test on a regular basis.

“I think the biggest thing I found, even for companies that have disaster recovery plans, the testing of the plan didn’t occur regularly.”

The numbers are hardly encouraging given the importance of data to companies. According to Veritas, about 55 per cent of companies worldwide can not afford to lose even an hour of business transactions, while almost 80 per cent can afford only hours rather than days of interruption.

Given the importance of company data and the events of Sept. 11, Veritas and analysts predict the incidence of true DR preparedness will increase. Edward Broderick, principal analyst for the Wappinger Falls, N.Y.-based Robert Frances Group, said the events of Sept. 11 have put more pressure on CEOs to act.

“In my view, it’s not optional,” he said. “The CEO has to pay the price or he will get accused of ignoring fiduciary duty and he will get fired.”

Broderick said insurance companies in the U.S. are pushing corporations to implement DR plans while regulation coming out of Washington mandates DR plans for industries like pharmaceuticals, along with utilities and financial services.

Similar legislation exists in Canada for critical industries like financial services and utilities, according to Dimson. But he is more buoyed by the turnout at Veritas’ Canadian DR seminars.

“The difference today is that more people are talking about it,” he said. “They’re looking at what they can do. I think three years from now will be better.”

Dimson said it is important for companies implementing a DR plan to ascertain which applications are critical and which applications can be interrupted for a couple of days without the company incurring a significant loss.

According to Veritas vice-president and CIO Greg Valdez, implementing a DR plan can be as simple as adjusting a company data architecture. He said a data warehousing system, which the company has already paid for, can serve as a backup in case of disaster.

“A lot of people see disaster recovery as insurance and not as an investment,” Valdez said. “If you architect this stuff correctly, what you’ll get out of it is DR for free.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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