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Commentary: Firms need recovery plans

Tuesday's calamity at the World Trade Center makes it tragically apparent that businesses need to develop and maintain disaster recovery plans if they are to survive.

By Roberta Witty and Donna Scott, Gartner Analysts

The shocking and tragic events that unfolded on Sept. 11 at New York's World Trade Center may vividly demonstrate that lack of a business continuity plan--or if there is one, a failure to test it regularly--will drastically hamper a company's ability to recover from a catastrophe.

See news story:
Computer recovery companies go to work

Gartner estimates that two out of five businesses that experience a major disaster go out of business within five years.

By contrast, businesses with recovery plans and systems can get their computing capabilities restored remarkably quickly. As an example, Comdisco, a leading disaster recovery vendor, moved rapidly to enable all 35 of its customers that declared disasters on Sept. 11 to recover their data by the end of the next day.

Comdisco reports that its affected customers all have the following characteristics:
• They have documented business continuity and disaster recovery programs.
• They store vital records electronically.
• They perform regular testing.

Doing those things particularly helped businesses that had facilities at the World Trade Center because the disaster resulted in the destruction of the buildings and all records and systems contained in them.

However, Gartner has noted that attention to rare and unlikely risks is not something that a company's operational line management does well--the crisis of the day always gets priority--so business continuity planning needs additional focus. A company's senior management group must ensure that the issue is being dealt with rigorously.

The key to a successful business continuity plan is not in its development, but in its maintenance. From a pragmatic perspective, a formal organization should be responsible for giving business continuity planning a high degree of continuous focus, credibility and governance. The only people who have any hope of maintaining a viable recovery process, for business processes or technology, are those involved in the operation of the normal processes.

Businesses must prepare for the possibility--indeed, the strong probability--that a catastrophe will occur in one form or another. If businesses do not immediately begin developing and testing business continuity plans and seeking disaster recovery services, they risk complete loss of their business viability when a catastrophe strikes.

(For a related commentary on Hewlett-Packard's move to acquire Comdisco's availability solutions business, see Gartner.com.)

Entire contents, Copyright © 2001 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.