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Survey sees tech divide on data disasters

Would a disaster at a company wipe out its data? Most business executives say no, but their IT teams aren't so sure, a survey finds.

Business and information technology executives at U.S. companies have very different views about how prepared they are for a disaster, according to a survey to be released Monday.

The survey, sponsored by data storage giant EMC, found that only 14 percent of senior business executives felt their important data is very vulnerable to being lost in the event of a disaster, compared to 52 percent of senior IT executives.

U.S. business and tech leaders also differ on how long it would take to resume normal business operations if a disaster struck, according to the survey. Only 9 percent of business executives say they would need three days or more to resume, compared to 23 percent of technology executives.

The survey was conducted by RoperASW, a marketing research and consulting firm. It polled 274 executives at major U.S. corporations and other large organizations.

The business leaders polled included senior financial executives such as chief financial officers and chief executive officers, according to EMC. Information technology leaders surveyed included senior IT executives in business units and chief information officers.

"Our customers tell us that their greatest challenge isn't backing up their information--it's recovering and resuming operations in a timely manner," said David Goulden, EMC's executive vice president for global marketing and business development. "We don't believe U.S. business leaders are being misled by their IT teams. Instead it is likely a misperception that, if the data is backed up, there is no issue."

One reason that recovery times can be long is that most companies still rely on tape backup systems as the primary means to resume operations, said Stephen Higgins, EMC's director of business continuity marketing. Disk systems can offer faster recovery times, but are more expensive, he said.

Disaster recovery is a growing field in a generally sluggish technology market. In a report last year, market research firm IDC said the backup recovery services market would grow from $3.0 billion in 2001 to $4.2 billion in 2006, for annual growth of 6.9 percent. IDC predicted that the broader business continuity market--which also includes software and hardware such as high-availability computers and storage area networks (SANs)--would expand from $29.9 billion in 2001 to $54.9 billion in 2006. That would represent annual growth of 12.9 percent.

European business and technology leaders are more aligned on disaster readiness, according to the survey. It questioned 254 senior business and IT leaders in seven countries and found that 40 percent of business executives and 44 percent of IT executives feel very vulnerable regarding their data.

Roughly one third of the U.S. respondents worked for organizations with revenue of more than $5 billion per year, one third worked for organizations with revenue between $2 billion and $5 billion and one third worked for organizations with revenue between $1 billion and $2 billion. In Europe, organizations with more than 1,000 employees were selected for the survey, with 43 percent of the respondents responsible for more than 5,000 employees.