Disaster recovery needs focus: study

Despite recent incidents such as the blackout in Ontario and raging forest fires in British Columbia, many Canadian organizations still fail to see the need for a comprehensive disaster recovery plan.

This was reflected in the fourth annual national IT survey conducted by Athabasca University and CIO Canada magazine, which found 44 per cent of the more than 2,500 respondents did not believe their organziations had a disaster recovery plan in place.

“Bearing in mind that our respondents are (IT) managers and professionals…it is reasonable to assume that if plans exist then they should know about it,” said Peter Carr, executive director of Athabasca University’s Centre for Innovative Management.

Carr said a failure on the part of senior management teams to keep up with technology and its role in day-to-day business is to blame.

“We went through a phase where technology was viewed fairly negatively after the dot-com collapse,” he said. “At that time we saw senior management teams take their eye off the ball as far as technology was concerned. It became less important to them. At the same time, technology did proliferate and became a more important part of the business.”

Osama Arafat, the CEO of Toronto-based hosting service provider Q9 Networks, said he is at a loss to figure out why some companies continually fail to realize the need for a disaster recovery plan.

“We continue to be surprised and amazed at how many companies have limited or no disaster recovery plans,” he said. “My best guess is that everybody thinks it’s not going to happen to them.”

Arafat said he suspects that the number of companies lacking an “effective” plan is probably higher than 44 per cent.

“How many people have effective disaster recovery plans that are not just in a dusty binder somewhere, but ones that are continually tested and will work in the case of a disaster?”

On a more positive note, the study showed increased optimism about the state of IT budgets. A total of 42 per cent of respondents predict their IT budgets will rise in the next 12 months, while just 19 per cent feel they will decline.

“This is a significantly stronger outlook for the technology sector than we’ve seen in the past three years,” Carr said. “In 2001, only 34 per cent of our respondents believed that their technology budgets would increase, while 24 per cent reported a decrease.”

Overall, Carr said the survey shows the IT industry is rebounding, but there is a definite need for executives to take a new approach in the way they manage their technology.

“The outlook for technology is strong, but we need to see a radical shift in the orientation of whole senior management teams,” he said. “Technology is now something you can’t leave to the technology department. It’s something that [senior managers] need to have some capability in managing.”

For more information visit Athabasca University’s Centre for Innovative Management at www.mba.athabascau.ca.