Editorial Opinion: In praise of boring computing

Business continuity by definition is not dramatic. Terrorism, threats of war, crime and natural disasters are much more riveting. The slogan in the media is “if it bleeds, it leads,” because that is what catches people’s attention. Unfortunately, there is a lot of riveting news. So much, in fact, that one could easily miss Gartner’s statistics that reveal the most common cause of downtime are not disasters but planned occurrences from “competing workloads” – backup, reporting, data warehouse extracts, and restoring application and data.

Of course I’m not suggesting companies should ignore either human or environmental threats that could be fatal to businesses. Just look at cybercrime. The 21,756 of reported incidents of Internet security breaches in 2000 jumped 377 per cent to 82,094 in 2002, according to the CERT Coordination Center (CERT/CC). CERT/CC is an American centre of Internet security expertise operated by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Penn. The centre notes that each of these reported incidents may involve one site or hundreds (or even thousands) of sites.

This year began with the largest single online heist of credit information when 8 million credit card numbers were stolen. What will the year-end tally be?

Growing more gradually than these cybercrime figures, but still increasing is online banking which was the choice of one-quarter of the Canadian adults surveyed in the annual marketing research study conducted by NFO CFgroup in 2002.

Clearly, taking precautions against disaster of any kind is essential to survival in our uncertain world. But companies would be wise to heed the statistics that preventable computer downtimes are the most common cause of business interruptions.

With murmurings of business resiliency guidelines coming from the financial regulators in the U.S., business continuity might just end up getting as much play as it deserves.

Consider this statistic. I am told that in 2000, META Group research estimated data outage costs at US$205.55 per employee-hour. Given our increased reliance on data in general and the overlapping usage of core data by multiple applications or business units, that figure must surely have grown exponentially in these two years.

It may not be exciting, but business continuity is truly where the action should be. How astonishing to read an Ernst & Young report that nearly a third of leading Canadian companies admit they are not here, beyond the disaster recovery scenarios.