IBM Corp. is launching a disaster recovery and business continuity service for large companies that want to continue operating when an unforeseen emergency affects their IT infrastructure.

The difference between this service and similar IBM offers is that it is designed to not only offer backup for data, but also for applications, so that a complete “shadow infrastructure” can be set up to spring into action within minutes after a company’s main IT site is damaged, an IBM spokesman said Wednesday.

This “shadow infrastructure” can also be activated when the workload at the main site reaches a high level. That way, the workload can be balanced between the main site and the remote site, according to IBM.

The offering includes services, consulting and storage products, and is aimed at financial, travel and retail companies. The storage services unit of IBM Global Services will offer the services, the spokesman said.

The area of disaster recovery and business continuity has been a main concern among IT departments worldwide since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Since then, CIOs and other IT decision makers have been trying to set up disaster recovery and business continuity plans to make sure their companies’ operations will not be interrupted in case of an emergency.