UK businesses fear meltdown from fire

Survey: Latest figures from storage firm Veritas suggest that many companies need to pay more attention to disaster recovery

Almost all UK organisations would fail to cope with the damage that a fire would cause to their IT systems, a disaster recovery firm claimed on Wednesday.

According to storage firm Veritas's latest annual study, 97 percent of UK organisations believe they would be unable to continue business.

"Natural disasters are something that UK companies are concerned with," said Chris Boorman, vice-president of marketing for Veritas. "There has been a great feeling of risk to organisations that we could see from this research. It has increased year on year. Many businesses would grind to a halt if they experienced a fire."

The study, which assessed 1,259 IT managers around the world, was carried out by a marketing company. However, just 101 of the companies were based in the UK, and Boorman wasn't able to say who the companies studied were.

Veritas insists, though, that 101 UK IT managers is a large enough sample to represent the British business community.

"I think so. I am very confident that the statistics show a trend," said Boorman.

Boorman also cited statistics from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, showing that 41,000 fires break out in UK commercial and public sector premises each year.

As well as destroying IT equipment, a fire could also cause massive damage to a firm's premises and destroy valuable paper records or stock. But while insurance can cover some losses, it will not bring back lost data.

The study also showed that 65 percent of respondents had a fireproof backup facility.

Boorman said that while the survey found 60 percent of companies carried out regular patching each month, only 14 percent reviewed their disaster recovery (DR) plans on a similar basis.

"It is worrying, actually scandalous that many organisations keep their disaster recovery plans at their backup facility," said Boorman.

But it wasn't all bad news -- Boorman added that boardroom involvement with DR plans had doubled since last year. Twenty-one percent of respondents said that they assigned DR responsibility to the board, compared to 11 percent in 2003.