Disaster Recovery: a C-level issue?

Disaster recovery may have gone off the map, but business continuity as a broader business issue has grown in focus.

Simon Durkin, director of Interactive, a business recovery planning and disaster recovery service provider.

Simon Durkin, director of Interactive, a business recovery planning and disaster recovery service provider.

In August Symantec released the results of its 2008 IT Disaster Recovery survey, reporting global business trends around disaster recovery planning (DR) and preparedness. Perhaps the most compelling (and certainly the most reported) finding in the report was the apparent decline in C-level executive involvement in DR planning.

According to the report, fewer C-level executives are sitting on DR committees in 2008 than the previous year. While the 2007 survey found that 55 percent of respondents’ DR committees involved the CIO or CTO, in 2008 that number dropped to 33 percent worldwide.

So what does this mean for DR planning? Does the decline demonstrate that the importance of DR planning within organisations is decreasing? Are DR plans taking a back seat? Do executive teams think their company is immune to risk or at least that the risk has lessened? While on the surface it is easy to assume this, it may not necessarily be the case.

While it is possible that C-level teams are taking a step back from DR planning and decision making, it does not mean that they are ignoring the overarching business continuity plan. Among our customers, DR is increasingly seen as just one element of the overall business continuity plan – albeit a key one. The business continuity plan is the result of an analysis of the business and of the core functions, applications and systems that, if impacted by a "denied access" event (be it short or long term), would cause significant disruption to the normal operation and productivity of the business affecting its viability. DR is usually understood as a technology term, while business continuity is broader – encompassing IT as well as staff displacement, customer communications and any other function crucial to the continued operation of the business.

Business continuity is not only about recovery from a disaster, it is about minimising the impact and likelihood of interruptions, decreasing downtime as well as ensuring maximum service levels are maintained to customers during the incident.

With this is mind, the Symantec interpretation of the research is potentially too narrow. “Disaster recovery” may have gone off the map while business continuity as a broader business issue has grown in focus. While business continuity is being driven by the CEO, DR (a key element of the business continuity plan) is being filtered down to the IT department where IT managers who handle the day-to-day operations of DR are able to take a leading (and specialist) role in DR planning.

In addition to the shift in ownership of DR planning, the report also found a significant increase in the number of organisations re-evaluating their DR plans due to virtualisation in their production environments. This is not surprising considering that virtualisation is now recognised as one of the fastest-growing sectors of the IT market with Gartner analysts tipping it to be one of the most significant technologies influencing the market in 2008.

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