By Maximilian Clarke

Over half of small organisations across the UK, France and Germany are operating without a formal disaster recovery plan in place, according to research from analyst firm Freeform Dynamics, sponsored by Quest Software.

The survey of 160 IT decision-makers found that 58% of small organisations (50-250 employees) do not have a formal disaster recovery plan, and nearly one fifth of mid-sized enterprises (250- 1,000 employees) are in the same position.

Industry differences became apparent when comparing how prepared organisations are for a potential disaster. companies within the Financial Services sector (90%), as well as those in Communications and Media (81%), have formal disaster recovery plans in place. However, a much smaller percentage of businesses in Retail & Distribution, and Manufacturing, have done the same, with less than 40% having drawn up formal disaster recovery plans.

Despite acknowledging that their focus on disaster recovery could be improved, only one in five businesses rank data protection as one of the highest priorities in IT expenditure plans. The most significant driver to improve disaster recovery capabilities across all industries, according to 54% of firms, is ‘changing user and business expectations’. This is consistent with an increased reliance on technology and automation along with a faster pace of business and ever increasing customer expectations.

“Events over the past year, including cyber-attacks and natural disasters, have highlighted the importance of having a robust disaster recovery process in place so organisations can quickly respond and remain operational should a major interruption impact your business,” explains Kevin Nolin, VP and GM of Quest Software (EMEA). “Planning for failure shouldn’t be an afterthought or overlooked by any organisation, regardless of size. Information is integral to the success of every organisation and companies should do more to keep their most important asset protected.”

The research also found that data replication and other sophisticated data management tools are yet to be widely deployed in smaller enterprises, with many still using traditional file-based backup and restore (92%). However, 32 % of small to mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) have doubts and issues about the use of such traditional methods.

Many SMEs are not convinced that the more sophisticated solutions are suitable for adoption by organisations of their size. A big contributing factor to this is unfamiliarity was industry jargon. It was noted that many SMEs are confused by terms that vendors and enterprise specialists take for granted. With the exceptions of ‘traditional file based’ and ‘image-based backup and restore solutions’, almost all other solutions resulted in significant numbers of requests for definitions to be provided. This indicates that there is a real need for suppliers to focus on the ‘why’ and ‘how’, as well as the ‘what’ of advanced techniques, and to provide clear explanations of how solutions can be made to work for SMEs.

“When we compared different groups within the research based on how well they had disaster recovery covered, we found that the higher performers had a lot of things in common,” explains Tony Lock, Programme Director, Freeform Dynamics. “Apart from formal planning and investment prioritisation, simply taking on board modern delivery approaches such as server virtualisation, hosted services and tiered-backup, can have a big positive impact on disaster recovery capabilities.” When highlighting the role of suppliers, he adds: “Advanced disaster recovery technologies can help - many of these are now a lot more SME friendly than they used to be - but the research clearly shows that vendors and their partners need to get better at explaining the options available in terms that smaller businesses can understand.”

Freeford Dynamics have outlined their 7 enablers of effective IT disaster recovery:

The key enablers of effective IT disaster recovery that were highlighted in Freeform Dynamics’ research include:

1. Inclusive planning - Taking an inclusive approach to planning ensures that dependencies between business and IT operations are fully appreciated when looking at risk scenarios and recovery options.
2. Prioritisation and funding - Good IT disaster recovery does not happen without explicit commitment. Better performers prioritise resources and funding.
3. Emphasis on disk rather than tape - Using disk rather than tape as a primary backup medium can improve the speed and granularity of the recovery process.
4. Use of remote facilities - Sending backups or second copies of data directly to a remote device reduces exposure to local issues.
5. Use of hosted services - Hosted services can help with remote backup and access to providers’ disaster recovery facilities. Recovery to the cloud is also possible.
6. Commitment to virtual infrastructure - Spinning up virtual images on alternative local, remote or hosted servers enhances speed and flexibility of recovery in many scenarios.
7. Use of advanced disaster recovery solutions - Modern disaster recovery technology and techniques can cut out manual processing and allow approaches to be implemented that improve the speed, comprehensiveness, granularity and reliability of IT DR processes.

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