Though the disaster wrought by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast may be on everyone's mind, disaster recovery planning may not be.
Solution providers say disasters, even one the scale of Katrina, don’t necessarily spur disaster-recovery business, since many customers focus more on rebuilding.
Hope Hayes, president of Alliance Technology Group, a Hanover, Md.-based storage solution provider, said that after the Sept. 11 attacks and Hurricane Isabel, which roared up the East Coast two years ago this month, people just shut down as if they had gone into shock. "The one thing you always hear is that people will look to their data or backups," she said. "But after Sept. 11, people didn't want to talk to us for six months. It was really weird. We had a couple of customers ask us, ‘Why are you calling us? Don't you know what happened?’ "
Hayes said the fact that Alliance already had a professional services business in place after Sept. 11 saved her company from disappearing. "If you had federal business, you still had orders. But there was nothing from the commercial side. It was not what we expected,” she said.
In the wake of a disaster, customers will look to get their business in order before re-examining their disaster-recovery plan, which can be expensive to redo because it involves duplicating a company's infrastructure, Hayes said. "So will a company say, ‘All right, I'm going to put in a new disaster-recovery plan after a disaster?’ No. They're going to be looking at their revenue in the next two years and wondering how to do business."
History has shown increased interest in recovery services following a disaster, but that hasn’t always yielded a major gain in business, said Ron Roberts, president of BluPointe DRS, a disaster-recovery solution provider in Atlanta. "After [Sept.] 11, we got a lot of calls, and after previous hurricanes, we got more callbacks,” he said. “Some people put new disaster-recovery plans in place, while others put them off until the next hurricane."
The best disaster-recovery schemes rely on disk-based backup, archiving data off-site and skipping tape if possible, Roberts said. Still, for businesses of all sizes, disaster recovery oftens hinges on one person, he added.
"If you rely on one person in one city to never be sick and always be there to stick in a tape, take it out, label it and get it off-site, you have a potential disaster," Roberts said. "With new disk-based solutions and remote backups, if there is an error, I can know it right away."
Don Richie, CEO of Sequel Data Systems, an Austin, Texas-based solution provider, said expects more customer interest in disaster recovery, but not from large companies. "The interest will be from smaller guys," he said. "The major companies, they are accustomed to hurricanes and have had the [backup] technology in place for years. It is the smaller companies that couldn't afford it that will now consider it. I think you will see a lot of midsize businesses move in on this."
Many customers have bought bits and pieces of a disaster-recovery infrastructure, such as new storage and servers, but haven’t put a recovery plan in place, said Terry Verigan, vice president of consulting services at Agilogic, a Metairie, La.-based solution provider that was forced to relocate to Houston and Baton Rouge, La., after Katrina.
Nevertheless, even before Katrina, that situation had begun to change. About six customers doing $500,000 or more in business with Agilogic enlisted the solution provider to help develop a more comprehensive disaster-recovery program, Verigan said.
"One Metairie bank had been in discussions with us on business continuity and disaster recovery but had not put it in place yet," he said. "We just got a verbal commitment from the CEO on acquiring such requirements that will make them able to write a strategic disaster-recovery and business-continuity plan."