Attacks spur small firms to devise recovery plans
"We asked, 'What happens if we lose all of our information?' " says Randy Cohen, CEO of TicketCity.com, which is beefing up its disaster systems.
Only 25% to 35% of small firms have disaster-recovery plans, market researcher Gartner estimates, compared with 85% of large firms. Now, more small firms are taking it seriously, says Giga Information Group analyst Colin Rankine, who has seen a "tremendous" increase in calls from concerned clients.
More small firms are:
- Backing up data more frequently and storing it off-site. Virtualtech, a Web design and marketing firm in Appleton, Wis., used to rely on a single staffer to back up its data once a month. "In reality, probably once every 2 or 3 months," says marketing Vice President Tammy Miller.
Those backups were stored in Virtualtech's office, often just feet from the system they were duplicating. Nine days after the attacks, the company ordered a new system to automatically duplicate files every day. Virtualtech plans to store the tapes in a bank safe deposit box.
- Building redundant systems. The staff of Houston-based Investment House.com, which offers investment advice, is making copies of its Web site and data systems on computers in California, Florida and Texas. The company hopes the change will allow it to recover from an emergency in about 2 hours.
- Improving security. Austin, Texas-based TicketCity.com recently decided to beef up the computer "firewalls" that protect its network from hackers and viruses. The ticket broker also bought a more secure Internet connection for its e-mail system.
- Finding office space and equipment for emergencies. Software maker SilverBack Technologies is making sure employees have somewhere to work if they can't get into the company's Billerica, Mass., office. Staffers who could be asked to work from home are receiving special training. The company also is setting up ways for employees to contact each other after an emergency.
The Sept. 11 attack "really changes how you think about disaster," President John Igoe says.
Because many World Trade Center companies were large, analysts speculate most data was backed up. Firms such as Morgan Stanley and Oppenheimer Funds assured clients that data was safe within hours of the attack.
Emergency procedures allowed Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield to switch its main computer network from its World Trade Center headquarters to a satellite office in Albany, N.Y., before the Trade Center collapsed.
But even Empire says it is taking another look at it procedures. One problem: It still doesn't have office space for 1,200 dislocated employees. Senior Vice President Kenny Klepper, who directed recovery efforts while on a business trip in Bangalore, India, says it is taking too long to find new office space and equipment. "We could have had better planning there," he says.
Disaster-readiness companies are expected to benefit from the new focus. Gartner expects the sector's revenue to rise 10% more than it projected before the attacks.
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Small businesses, many of which never planned for emergencies let alone catastrophic events like the Sept. 11 attacks, are stepping up disaster-recovery plans.