Poll: Businesses Express Confidence In IT Network Resilience, But Experiences Reveal Otherwise

 CDW LLC, a provider of technology solutions to business, government, education and healthcare, recentlyannounced the results of its Business Continuity Straw Poll, based on a survey of 200 Information Technology (IT) decision makers at medium and large U.S. businesses, each of which experienced significant network disruptions since July 2009. The survey investigated how their businesses reacted to the disruptions and the measures they are taking to improve their business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) capabilities for the future.

While 82 percent of the 200 businesses completing the survey felt confident that their IT resources could sustain disruptions and support operations effectively, 97 percent admitted network disruptions had detrimental effects on their businesses in the last year. Further, of the more than 7,000 U.S. businesses invited to complete the survey, 25 percent (1,794) reported experiencing a network disruption of four hours or more within the last year. The Business Continuity Straw Poll estimates conservatively that such network outages cost U.S. businesses $1.7 billion in lost profits last year.

“The survey confirms that while many businesses believe they are prepared for an unplanned network disruption, many are not -- and yet the three most common causes of IT outages are addressable,” said Norm Lillis, CDW vice president, system solutions. Power loss ranked as the top cause of business disruptions over the past year, with one third of businesses reporting it prompted their most recent disruption. Hardware failures caused 29 percent of network outages, followed by a loss of telecom services to facilities (21 percent).

“Through more preparation, testing and improved network accessibility, businesses can improve BC/DR plans and have real confidence in business operations during unplanned disruptions,” Lillis said.

The survey also revealed that businesses need to take advanced preparation more seriously and support employees more effectively with network accessibility. While 53 percent of respondents said employees are instructed or given the option to work from home when a foreseeable network disruption approaches (e.g., a weather event), only a third of businesses activate standby communications and network systems to support increased remote access when warned of such an event. In fact, while respondents reported that, on average, 44 percent of the workforce normally has telework options, they said that only 39 percent of employees could telework during their most recent network outage.

Regardless of the cause of disruption, more than half of businesses (57 percent) reported productivity losses as the top negative effect of their network disruptions, primarily due to reduced access to the network itself or to applications, data and communications systems:

  • Half (51 percent) experienced problems connecting to their IT network from other locations.
  • Half (50 percent) had problems connecting from inside their business locations.
  • Nearly half of respondents (46 percent) said employees could not access the necessary company resources to do their jobs.
  • Almost one-third (29 percent) said employees had problems communicating with each other via internal phone systems and/or e-mail.
  • 28 percent said their networks were slower than expected and could not support the increased traffic from remote locations.

In the wake of their recent network disruptions, many businesses are improving DR capabilities by updating their BC/DR plans (34 percent), extending BC/DR coverage to accommodate disruptions of 72 hours or more (23 percent) or by updating plans for proactive measures ahead of forecasted interruptions or threats (22 percent). Other businesses are focusing closely on connectivity and mobility issues to ensure employees have access to data at all times and from all locations. One in five businesses is not planning any immediate changes to their BC/DR plan.

“No two network disruptions are the same. It is great to see businesses strengthening their plans, and there is always room for improvement. It is critical that businesses test their infrastructure and BC/DR plans at least once a year, to pin-point weaknesses before it is too late,” Lillis continued. “Running a business impact analysis (BIA) can help identify and prioritize BC/DR needs. A good technology partner can help with the BIA and provide an outside perspective on what your businesses needs to survive the unexpected.”

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