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Economic Downturn Not Time To Reduce Focus On Disaster Preparedness


Spurred by a worsening outlook for the economy, many companies are taking a hard look at information technology (IT) expenditures to identify projects that can be cut or deferred. However, the business needs for available data and regulatory compliance requirements do not slow down, even in the face of an economic downturn.

“Focused on short-term pressures to make budget cuts, it often escapes companies that disaster preparedness needs may actually be greater during economic slowdowns,” said William P. DiMartini, senior vice president of consulting services at SunGard Availability Services. “For instance, many organizations are reducing costs by consolidating equipment. But because of e-discovery and compliance requirements, data must still be retained even with a cap on spending.”

DiMartini, a veteran of more than 20 years in disaster planning and recovery, says: “I keep three things in mind when reviewing companies IT programs to ensure optimal preparedness”:

1. What are their risks?
2. Which programs must be maintained - and how can we best maintain them?
3. What is the impact of technology changes to disaster plans?

Make risk assessment a priority. As organizations are challenged to scrutinize how to spend their dollars, conducting availability risk assessments to identify vulnerabilities can provide excellent guides on how to determine budget priorities.

Companies need to plan for a range of scenarios from short-term outages to full-blown disasters. Risk assessments provide a comprehensive review of a company’s current information availability strategies – and analyze the business impact of potential disruptions. When conducting assessments, it is essential to measure and assess three major areas:

- Information security, covering policy, procedure and regulatory response.
- Information management, examining program controls, the organization and flow of information, and continuity of services.
- Information architecture, looking at network design, facility and environmental infrastructure and system design.

Risk assessments provide an objective evaluation to senior executives, describing how a firm’s information availability strategy compares to similar organizations – outlining strengths and weaknesses. They also contribute a valuable guide in determining where to spend money to address vulnerabilities,” said DiMartini.

Keep Essential Programs Going. Typically, during an economic downturn, internal IT resources become stretched. This leads to companies looking for outside support to fill gaps to get essential work done and still save money. One area third-party experts can provide assistance is maintaining and testing disaster recovery plans. Disaster recovery plans need to be viewed as ongoing programs – not projects that can be put on the shelf for a year.

Another area that often faces cutbacks in tight budgetary times is recovery environments. Companies are pressured to scale back an IT recovery site. This often leads to the recovery installation not matching a current production environment. Critical applications can then no longer be supported at recovery sites. To address this issue, companies can leverage third party managed services that host secondary applications at a third-party site and protect data with disaster recovery solutions.

Have Disaster Plans that Keep Pace with Technology Changes. Many organizations are moving today to virtualization technologies to generate IT cost savings by consolidating servers and storage. But moving to these environments with untested plans to recover data should an unplanned outage occur can turn a problem into a disaster that impacts an entire company.

“Data managed by virtualized systems still needs to be accessible. Business continuity plans need to be updated to account for virtual environments to assure information availability,” said DiMartini.
During economic downturns, remember to (1) assess the risks to the organization; (2) pinpoint which programs must be maintained - and the best approach for them to continue; and (3) consider the impact of technology changes to disaster plans.


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