IT failure has domino effect on people, productivity: Report

A business in North America is inflicted by an average of 12 hours of IT system downtime followed by eight hours of recovery time per year, which amounts to a drop in employee productivity to 60 per cent, according to a new survey.

The objective of the study by Islandia, N.Y.-based software vendor CA Technologies Inc., which polled 2,000 North American and European businesses of varying sizes, was to gauge awareness of the repercussions of IT system downtime and what businesses are doing regarding disaster recovery plans.

Following an IT system failure, the study found that the 60 per cent productivity rate would rise to only 74 per cent during a typical data recovery period.

Eric Harless, director of product management for the data management business at CA Technologies, said IT system downtime affects not only employees but customers and suppliers as well. “There’s definitely a domino effect as far as people and productivity,” he said.

Fifty-six per cent of polled North American organizations had a disaster recovery plan in place. Yet, 18 per cent expected an IT system failure would be “very damaging” for their company reputation, and 50 per cent said it would be “damaging.”

“They know they’re at risk but they’re either taking that chance or they don’t have the resources in-house,” said Harless.

Part of the issue, said Harless, is that many organizations toil under the false belief that disaster recovery plans are out of their reach. It used to be the case that business continuity required a dedicated second facility staffed with trained IT people, or buying dedicated hardware.

But, today, said Harless, technologies such as virtualization and software-as-a-service present more affordable options. “Virtualization is probably the largest enabler,” he said.

Even then, Harless said traditional data backup methods can be sufficient depending on what the organization can live with. For instance, a 24-hour downtime on e-mail servers won’t be acceptable. But a downtime of several days for payroll systems, in use only twice a month, would not be damaging.

“It’s about balancing the cost with where you need those important systems to be available,” said Harless.

While the study by CA Technologies looked at loss of productivity in person-hours, a study in 2010 looked at the monetary loss to an average enterprise. More than $400,000 per month was estimated to be the amount of money a large organization would bleed as a result of server recovery problems.

The research by Veeam Software Corp., a backup and replication technology vendor with a Canadian office in Saint Laurent, Que., was focused in part on the degree to which IT departments test the recoverability of backups.

The research found that, every month, 63 per cent of enterprises encounter problems when recovering a virtual or physical server. Testing is not performed as often as it should because the testing of a single backup can take 13 hours, explained Veeam Software president Ratmir Timashev.

The need to recover data on a server is done for several reasons including hardware failure, misconfiguration and user and operator error, said Timashev.

Harless agreed that testing is key. While having a business continuity strategy is great, “a plan or a policy without testing doesn’t do you a lot of good.”
–With files from Maxwell Cooter,

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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