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Issue of June 2003 
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Event: Business Continuity
The show must go on

No matter what happens, you cannot afford to let your business fail, or for that reason, even temporarily lag. So how do you ensure that? This formed the center point of the recently held seminar on 'The changing economics of Business Continuity'. Held on April 29 and April 30 2003 respectively at New Delhi and Mumbai, the seminar featured prominent speakers such as Dr. Kevin McIsaac, Program Director, Infrastructure Strategies, META Group; T Srinivasan, Country Manager, India, EMC; and Val Souza, Editor, Express Computer.

The event opened with a presentation titled 'Ensuring Business Continuity' by Val Souza. The Express Computer editor helped clear many of the misconceptions that surround the term Business Continuity Planning (BCP). According to Souza, the primary goal of BCP is to deliver the right data without data loss. The primary goal of accurate data delivery might be impeded by risks such as those at the customer, supplier end; with the hardware & software; with core business processes, and also at partner ends. This is where BCP comes into play.

Today, most businesses are dependent on information, and thereby IT, to a very large extent. Businesses have also started interacting with the outside world using IT on a scale that's never been seen before. This has created a scenario where there is no room for data. Add to this, the explosion of data due to new entrants like ERP and SCM, Souza drove the point home citing a KPMG study which shows that few Indian organizations are going in for BCP. Even if implemented, few of them actually test it.

The next speaker was T. Srinivasan and he spoke about the latest trends in business continuity. Srinivasan described how aspects like the criticality of data, consistency of data, and distance increases in the enterprise, have made it crucial for business continuity to take center stage. He also pointed out that businesses tend to focus only on business resumption from a remote site in most cases. In such a scenario, many of the routine business tasks might be neglected. Business resumption from a remote site is very critical. However, it is more important to concentrate on the day to day tasks that users have. This is where there is need for actual BCP in organizations.

According to Srinivasan, there are three essential components for a BCP to be in place. These are consolidation, centralized control, and business continuity. In terms of storage, business continuity involves features such as data replication & recovery, and resumption of operations.

Then came the highlight of the event—a presentation on 'The Economics of Business Continuity' by Dr Kevin McIsaac. The META Group analyst started his presentation with how applications have become more externalized over the years. He made a clear distinction between terms like Business Continuity (BC), Disaster Recovery (DR), and High Availability (HA). According to McIsaac, most of the organizations are inadequately prepared in case something goes wrong.

"Almost 85 percent of US companies altered BC/DR plans after September 11. So you need to be prepared for the unthinkable," said McIsaac. McIsaac said CIOs need to be more proactive. They should learn how to sell HA/DR to the business. Some of the main issues they will be confronted with are understanding downtime, justifying DR & HA spending, and selecting the solution.

When it comes to downtime CIOs should be able to define availability and categorize downtime. Mean time to failure and mean time to recover are more important than almost 100 percent availability levels in this scenario.

McIsaac highlighted the fact that technical people tend to focus only on unplanned technical outages most of the time. This is only a very small percentage of downtime. While unplanned downtime can be dealt with by putting in more redundancy, there needs to be more process-oriented efforts to deal with planned downtime. For example, planned downtime could be downtime due to scheduled backups. This is where organizations need to become more process-oriented, he said.

While all the technical factors can be dealt with, CIOs have a bigger challenge. This is in justifying downtime and its effect on the business.

"Your job is to ensure that businesses understand the need for disaster recovery. Businesses need to see the risks induced due to unavailability of an application," said McIsaac.

Offering a few words of advice, McIsaac said that the CIO should limit himself/herself to providing the management with the various options they have, and let the business figure out the costs. The CIO should educate the business about the pros and cons of each solution. Selection of the appropriate solution should be left to the business head. McIsaac also emphasized the fact that DR has to be done at the initial stage itself.

Snapshots

The event featured speakers like T Srinivasan, Country Manager (India), EMC

The event was attended by prominent CIOs and CTOs

CIOs need to be more proactive - Dr Kevin McIsaac, META Group
 
     
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