As Hurricane Season Heats Up, AT&T Survey Finds Disaster Preparedness Not a Priority for Nearly One-Third of Atlanta Businesses
Many Atlanta Businesses Unprepared; Small Businesses and Startups Especially Vulnerable to Damage from Network Disasters
Atlanta, Georgia.-The threats of devastating natural disasters such as hurricanes, as well as terrorist attacks and other manmade calamities, have prompted more U.S. businesses to prepare for disaster. But AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) has announced that a survey of local executives released today indicates that many businesses in Atlanta remain vulnerable. The survey of 100 local information technology (IT) executives found that the Atlanta business community scored in the lower half of U.S. cities surveyed for disaster preparedness, with nearly one-third of respondents saying business continuity is not a priority.
“Tornadoes, floods, fires, blackouts and manmade disasters such as cyberattacks can all have devastating consequences, but having a plan in place can minimize the impact of a disaster,” said Phil Jacobs, president, Business Communications Services, AT&T Southeast. “In Atlanta and throughout the Southeast, AT&T offers companies a wide range of defenses to protect networks from intrusion by viruses and hackers as well as ensure remote backup and secure data storage for businesses of all sizes.”
Businesses in the Atlanta area ranked sixth among 10 U.S. metropolitan areas surveyed by AT&T. Other markets included Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, Memphis/Nashville, New York, San Francisco and Minneapolis/St. Paul. The survey found that, although a majority of Atlanta businesses consider business continuity a priority,
* More than one-fourth (28 percent) reported having no plan to prepare for business disruptions or having no knowledge of a plan in place.
* A majority (62 percent) of companies have had their plans updated in the past 12 months, but less than half (47 percent) have had them tested during the same time period; 13 percent of companies indicate their plans have never been tested.
* Nearly three-fourths (70 percent) of executives indicated no specific protective actions implemented by their companies when the state or federal government issues an alert for an impending disaster.
The 10 market rankings for businesses surveyed in 2007 from highest to lowest in preparedness are:
1. New York
3. San Francisco
8. Los Angeles
9. Minneapolis/St. Paul
Though Atlanta is not as vulnerable to hurricanes as coastal Southeast cities, other severe weather conditions, such as tornadoes, have done significant damage to the metro area over the years. Last year, 25 tornadoes were recorded in Georgia. Through the1990s, fatal tornadoes in Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties caused more than $100 million in property damage.
“Much of the Southeast, including Atlanta, is subject to the aftereffects of powerful coastal hurricanes,” said Judith Curry, chair, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology. “Hurricane Ivan spawned more than 100 tornadoes, which moved damaging weather deep into the interior of the Southeast.”
The layout of infrastructure for many businesses in Sun Belt cities, such as Atlanta, makes them even more susceptible to damage from extreme weather conditions. “Suburban office complexes prove more likely to experience damage from extreme weather conditions, because of the comparatively open spaces in which these corporate campuses are located, outside of thicker inner-city concentrations of buildings,” said Curry. “It is important for businesses and organizations in interior Southeast cities, such as Atlanta, to prepare for disaster scenarios because powerful weather is certainly not isolated to the coast.”
In addition to weather-related disasters, threats from terrorism and communicable diseases, such as TB and bird flu, prove relevant to Atlanta because it is an international transportation hub, home to the world’s busiest airport and host to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). West Nile virus is also a recurring threat to Metro Atlanta. Just this month, officials in Dekalb and Clayton counties have confirmed the season’s first positive samples for the virus in 10 locations in the counties.
Natural and manmade disasters alike tend to have a more significant impact on emerging and small businesses. Large companies with headquarters in Atlanta, which has the third highest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the nation, can weather the operational damage from disasters, though even short disruptions can prove extremely expensive. Small businesses, on the other hand, can fail overnight if the wrong kind of damage is sustained by an unexpected disaster.
Among the security measures available from AT&T to protect companies from disasters are AT&T’s Internet Data Centers (IDCs), which are a bulwark against network shutdowns that can grind business operations to a halt. The Atlanta-area IDC has become an essential reliquary of business-critical data and support for operations for a number of companies throughout Georgia and the Southeast.
AT&T recommends that every business develop a business continuity plan, test and update the plan at least annually, educate employees, establish redundant servers and backup sites to protect continuous operations, and have processes in place to take action when the federal or state government issues an alert.
Planning ahead for manmade calamities is also important. The survey found that approximately eight out of 10 (84 percent) of the Atlanta respondents said that cybersecurity is part of their company’s overall business continuity plan.
“Even a relatively minor disruption in essential network infrastructure can quickly lead to the collapse of vital business processes and ripple through an entire industry,” said Ed Amoroso, chief security officer, AT&T, and author of Cyber Security. “Regular testing of a business continuity plan, updating the plan and incorporating cybersecurity, as a key component of the plan, are essential to securing every company’s ongoing business operations.”
From a list of 10 possible cybersecurity threats, Atlanta respondents most frequently identified viruses and worms as perceived threats to cybersecurity (69 percent), followed by “hackers” (43 percent). To counteract the threat, more than two-thirds (69 percent) have drawn up corporate security policies and nearly two-thirds (66 percent) educate employees about cybersecurity issues.
For more information on the AT&T 2007 Business Continuity study, including the complete report, visit www.att.com/biz_continuity_study_2007.
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