Small and midsize businesses are becoming aware of the need to prepare their companies and IT infrastructures for the possibility of a disaster striking.
In fact, the biggest upcoming growth in disaster-recovery and business-continuity programs will take place in small and midsize businesses, said Farid Neema, president of Santa Barbara, Calif.-based research firm Peripheral Concepts. "Larger companies have solutions in place, but smaller companies don't even have plans in place yet," said Neema, who is the author of a recently released report titled "Business Continuance and Disaster Recovery,A User's Perspective."
However, solution providers are finding that small companies often differ in how far they are willing to go to prepare for the worst.
Disaster-recovery plans at small firms may consist mainly of putting backup tapes in a safety deposit box at a local bank, said Bob Young, president of ComputerTree, a Winston-Salem, N.C.-based solution provider. Budget concerns tend to limit their plans, he said.
"We have a lot of hurricanes down here," Young said. "But most companies just do their backups. They say the insurance companies will pay for new machines, so all they need to do is restore their data. They figure they will be down for just a few days."
Solution providers say they end up having to explain to business owners and managers that while data may have been backed up, survival of a business also requires the ability to restore that data, an ability that is not always guaranteed by their current solution.
End users are able to restore lost e-mails, so they know their backups work, said John Zammett, president of HorizonTek, a Huntington, N.Y.-based solution provider. "But I don't think any of them test full restores," he said.
Eric Koskoff, president of Multi Media Management, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based solution provider, insists that his small- and midsize-business clients back their data up to CD or DVD, and that they store off-site copies of everything, including data and even handwritten notes. "My customers are following the rule," said Koskoff. "They understand that if there is lightning, or a hurricane, or a fire, that DVD media burns as easily as paper."
Yet solution providers are still not finding business-continuity solutions an easy sell, despite new technologies that are making it easier for small and midsize businesses to ensure survivability in the event of a disaster.
Rob Didlake, founder and CEO of Dataedge Solutions, a Kansas City, Kan.-based solution provider, is talking to a local multibranch bank about installing a data backup and archiving appliance with integrated hardware and software from StorServer, Colorado Springs, Colo. Didlake is trying to sell the bank on a second unit to protect against natural disaster damage.
The bank thinks it can recover its data as long as the information is backed up to its first unit, said Didlake. "It would take two to three hours if the second StorServer were already in place," he said. "But it would take a week to get a second StorServer in an emergency."
Koskoff said he is being besieged by requests from companies to implement backups and recoveries over T1 and T3 lines, even while most of his clients are still sticking with DVDs, because of the expense.
To meet this need, some solution providers are starting to provide off-site disaster recovery as a service to their smaller clients.
Didlake is planning to put a StorServer in his office to allow small businesses do backups and restores over the Internet. "We could provide this service for small businesses for a monthly fee," he said.
Aztec Systems, a Carrollton, Texas-based solution provider, is already offering that capability via its OASys program, said Andrew Levi, founder and CEO. For as little as $115 per month, a business of up to 200 employees can have its data backed up and restored to Aztec's own network operating center, said Levi.