14/03/11

By David Blackman, General Manager of Northern Europe, Acronis explains

Being fit for business is imperative for all organisations participating in a highly competitive global economy. This means being able to continue to operate in the event of IT failure or major disaster, whether man-made or natural. Regardless of their global location, IT managers share a common challenge — keeping their business-critical digital assets safe and sound.

With the adoption of virtualisation, and the ongoing shift towards the cloud, DR strategies are becoming more complex. The shift has seen companies adopting several different backup solutions at various points in time to manage their different environments. Clearly a hybrid world is a complex one.

Despite universal complexities, there is no global standard for backup and DR. A recent global study of 3000 IT managers, which was conducted by Acronis and research house The Ponemon Institute set out to create a global index that identified the attributes required for a business to have confidence in excelling at backup and DR.

The results revealed that while attitudes towards backup and recovery differ widely around the world, businesses everywhere want a single backup and recovery solution for physical, virtual and cloud environments.

The world has entered a period of unparalleled data growth that is putting unprecedented strain on IT infrastructure. Only a global perspective gives a true index, without it businesses are most likely to adopt the same processes, technologies and corporate styles as those closest to them and never learn anything. In athletic terms, it’s the difference between being a national 100m champion, or taking home gold for the 100m sprint at the Olympic Games.

The most confident: Germany and the Netherlands

The results read like a typical games leader board. In top spot thanks to consistently achieving the best scores for confidence in backup and DR processes and procedures was Germany, closely followed by the Netherlands. With the strongest foundations for backup and DR operations, they have the best boardroom buy-in (73%/69%), the best controls and procedures (85%/77%) and the best-documented policies (85%/78%). As a result, they post the highest confidence scores when it comes to recovering quickly in the event of downtime (77%/85%), both more than 50% higher than average.

Closing confidently on the leaders: Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan

Closing confidently on the leaders is the APJ (Asia Pacific and Japan) region. Despite some major differences to the Index leaders, they are certainly the most confident regions when it comes to the belief that their backup and DR operations will work in the event of a serious incident

There are two areas of notable difference between APJ and the Index leaders. The first lies in how much of their overall IT budget is spent on backup and DR. The Germans (13%) and Dutch (14%) allocate more than twice as much of their overall IT budget to backup and DR than Singapore (6%), Hong Kong (5%) and Japan (7%).

Secondly, we can see a large difference in terms of how many businesses in Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan spend nothing on backup and DR operations. In Germany and the Netherlands, almost every business has some kind of backup and DR budget. However, a surprising number of businesses in Singapore (41%), Hong Kong (44%) and Japan (40%) claim to allocate none of their IT budget to backup and DR. This comparative lack of budget for backup and DR seems to conflict with their initial high confidence in recovering quickly from a serious incident.

The Nordic middle ground

In the middle of the results board, sit the Nordic countries. The study found that Swedish and Norwegian businesses had very similar attitudes to backup and DR. While they generally scored just above average throughout the study, there were several aspects that made them stand out.

Swedish (16%) and Norwegian (17%) businesses spend a lot more of their overall IT budget on backup and DR than any other country surveyed and almost three times as much as businesses in Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan.

Compared to the rest of the world, however, Swedish and Norwegian businesses are the least likely to embrace cloud computing, and very few make any significant use of the cloud today. While most countries will average an 87% increase in cloud-based IT over the next 12 months, Swedish and Norwegian use of the cloud will grow little more than 20% during the same period.

The laggards: UK, Australia and the United States

Dragging their feet near the back were the native English speaking countries. Businesses in the UK, Australia and the US all scored poorly on their ability to avoid downtime in the event of a serious incident (27%/44%/38%). Their confidence in recovering quickly (56%/36%/40%) also fell far short of the Index leaders, Germany (77%) and the Netherlands (85%).

This group lagged behind the leaders when it came to having boardroom buy-in and ample resources and technologies to do the job. When it comes to successfully recovering from a serious incident the Australians were the least confident. Just 22% of Australian businesses felt that they would be able to recover quickly in the event of downtime, compared to a global average of 50%.

Approximately a third of businesses in the UK (36%), Australia (36%) and the US (32%) do not have a backup and offsite DR strategy in place. These countries were generally the most likely to claim backup and DR was not being made enough of a priority, citing lack of budget and resources as the primary reasons behind this. But this theory plays out only partially. As a proportion of all IT spend, the UK, Australia and the US spent consistently less on backup and DR (10%/11%/10%) than Germany (13%) and the Netherlands (14%) but not by a wide mark.

Room to grow: France and Italy

In last place were France and Italy. These two countries put the least priority on backup and DR, highlighted by the fact that 39% of French and 53% of Italian businesses claimed to spend nothing on backup or DR. They are the most likely to admit that they do not have an offsite backup and DR strategy (41%/45%) and the least likely to be able to recover quickly from downtime, at 27% and 30% respectively, compared to an Index average of 50%. Their spend is the lowest percentage of overall IT budget of all countries surveyed at 5% (France) and 4% (Italy) respectively.

What the index teaches us

So what can we learn from the Index? In today’s world backup and disaster recovery is still a subject which many SMB organisations still struggle with. It’s not simply about having sufficient resources and technologies that count, businesses need to use them effectively. Confidence in DR starts at the top, as the Index has shown there is a strong correlation between those with well-managed backup and DR operations and those who have supportive business execs. Companies still need support in implementing easy to use and reliable technology.

When it comes to backing up in a hybrid environment, every region cited moving data between physical, virtual and cloud environments as their greatest challenge (68%). On average businesses use two or three different backup and DR applications, which explains why they cite complexity (48%) as their second biggest challenge.

Ultimately the success of any company’s backup and DR is based on the availability of its systems regardless of the environment that its data and systems are held in. For most small to medium size businesses, a service’s success is underpinned by its ability to deliver ease of use, cost effectiveness and flexibility. Both cloud services and virtualisation can do this, so the future is bright. Managed in the right way, from one central, easy to use solution, they can offer businesses the ultimate backup and disaster recovery protection, helping all businesses to achieve the gold medal in terms of backup and DR solutions.