IT reliance key to disaster recovery planning

Business managers need to understand how reliant their business is on IT before being presented with disaster solutions, says leading analyst

IT managers still have a long way to go in the fight to educate senior management about the benefits and pitfalls of organisational IT reliance, according to a leading analyst. Kevin McIsaac, programme director of server infrastructure strategies at industry analyst META Group, said that IT managers should ensure line-of-business managers understand the risks the enterprise faces, and only then lay out the range of solutions. Speaking at the launch of The Resilient Enterprise -- edited by Veritas technical director Paul Massiglia and principal engineer Evan Marcus -- McIsaac said that building resiliency was very expensive and that business managers simply didn't preceive the extent of their operation's reliance on IT. McIssac also suggested IT managers could take a leaf out of the insurance salesperson's book when they try to sell the concept of resilience and disaster recovery to their boards. The first step was to establish the value of the asset -- whether that is historical data or real-time processing capability. Then the risks being faced needed to be established. Once this had been done the IT manager could present a portfolio of solutions which provided a range of trade-offs between risk and cost. McIssac stressed that IT staff should not shoulder the responsibility for making the risk/cost choice, but once the choice has been made it is up to IT to deliver. Veritas' Massiglia pointed out that while senior management buy-in was important, it was not essential. He used the example of Pat Gambaro, senior vice president of trading floor operations and systems at what is now called the New York Board of Trade (NYBOT). In 1993 it responded to the bombing of the World Trade Center by improving its disaster recovery plan to include a hot recovery site complete with open outcry trading rings. Gambaro achieved this in the face of opposition from the board by using strategies such as striking a very favourable deal for recovery premises in Long Island City in return for acting as a "poster child" for the facility, and by populating the site with recently upgraded hardware instead of donating or recycling it. During subsequent upgrade cycles, successive generations of hardware were rotated through the recovery site, providing an adequate platform at practically no cost. Thanks to the preparation of Gambaro and vice president of IT Steve Bass, NYBOT's systems were ready to resume trading just after 8pm on 11 September, 2001, in spite of its premises at 4 World Trade Center being destroyed when Tower Two collapsed. Massiglia said that Gambaro achieved this in spite of resistance from executive management. Gambaro is now vice president of operations, and has no trouble getting resources, he added. NYBOT is now preparing to move back into Manhattan.

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