Asia's Growing in Disaster Recovery Maturity

Bill Taylor-Mountford, president of Acronis Asia-Pacific, citing a recent study the company had commissioned the Ponemon Institute to conduct, noted that about 49 percent of Asian small and midsize businesses (SMBs) were confident their backup and disaster recovery (DR) plans would help them successfully ride out any unforeseen system failure.

Globally, this figure was slightly higher at 50 percent.

The study polled over 6,000 SMBs in 18 countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Norway and the United States.

Japan and Singapore, in particular, exceeded the regional confidence level, Taylor-Mountford pointed out. Some 78 percent of companies in Japan were confident in their plans, while 51 percent of Singaporean businesses felt the same way, the study showed.

China, on the other hand, was a “laggard” as only 35 percent were confident in their companies’ ability to recover from setbacks, he noted.

Key to the region’s DR confidence was the fact that companies felt they had ample resources to enable a backup and disaster recovery operation. SMBs in Hong Kong cited this most, at 61 percent, as a reason for their DR confidence, followed by India at 59 percent.

Asked why Japanese organizations emerged the most confident, Taylor-Mountford said this could be because of their experiences dealing with natural disasters that hit the country last year. He related that many of the companies he spoke with recovered their critical information, and added that 90 percent of Acronis customers in Japan were able to do likewise.

Having experienced positively the usefulness and efficiency of having disaster recovery plans in place, he said 48 percent of Japanese companies polled in the survey indicated plans to implement full-scale disaster recovery strategies.

Guarding against complacencies

Taylor-Mountford, however, underscored the need for companies to guard against human errors to prevent system downtimes. He pointed to the survey which found that 60 percent of unplanned system downtime in 2011 was due to people making mistakes.

Other major areas of fallibility highlighted in the study were unexpected updates and patches as well as server room environment issues such as overheating, at 56 percent and 44 percent, respectively, he said.

The average cost of system downtime for Asian SMBs per year rang up to US$394,691, which was somewhat higher than the global average of US$366,363, he noted.

These were costs smaller companies could ill-afford to incur, he said, stressing the need for companies to put DR implementations higher up their list of priorities.

Asked why bigger establishments such as Singapore’s DBS Bank were still experiencing system failures and downtime despite being aware of the risks, Taylor-Mountford said it really boiled down to each company’s desire to spend on mitigating these risks.

He noted that among financial services institutions, most would usually aim to achieve “two 9s”, or 99 percent, service availability, having factored in the 1 percent risk in their overall calculations. Companies that desire to achieve “five 9s” would probably have to set up additional data centers which would significantly increase the overall disaster recovery implementation costs, he added.

Such heavy investments, however, were unlikely to happen due to a lack of boardroom support among the region’s businesses, he stated.

According to the Acronis survey, 24 percent of Asian SMBs spent less than 5 percent of their IT budgets on backup and DR implementations, while 25 percent did not spend a single dollar on such plans.

Taylor-Mountford said: “Decision-makers like to talk about and hear only the good stuff such as revenue-making schemes, and disaster recovery is not [part of] that, which is why it tends to not be discussed much.”

Other reasons for the lack of support for DR include the perception among decision-makers that the costs of these initiatives are prohibitive and companies, particularly SMBs, lack the expertise and manpower to deploy and maintain such backup systems, he explained.

As such, he reckoned there needs to be more education and awareness among top-level executives for disaster recovery projects to be given more prominence, and this will likely be seen in the coming years.