Business Continuity research: Europe and America learn only from their own most recent experiences

By | June 6, 2006

Despite their country’s close association with the ‘war on terror’, just 1 per cent of American businesses have documented terrorism as source of IT downtime, research shows. This tiny proportion is in contrast to the European response, where 12 per cent of businesses have attributed downtime to terrorism.

The 2006 SteelEye Technology Business Continuity Index also shows American companies fear power outage above everything except loss of network. Forty two per cent of respondents rank power outage as likely to have a maximum impact on their business, while this figure falls to 29 per cent in Europe.

The reason for this particular pair of differences between Europe and the USA may lie partly in the nature of human beings to look to the most recent history around them for guidance on future events:

while there hasn’t been a successful terrorist attack in the USA since 9/11, Europe has endured major urban incidents in both London and Madrid since then; and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 caused extensive, long term power outages across a huge area of America’s southern states

John Banfield, EMEA Director, SteelEye Technology, Inc., said: “It seems likely that European IT managers have simply been ‘re-sensitised’ to terrorism more recently than their USA counterparts, while American IT managers across the USA have been sensitised to the potential impact of power loss in a way unlikely to be recreated in Europe. The generally significant awareness in both Europe and America of power outages as potentially devastating events are likely due to the fact that both regions have, or have had, exposure to energy worries and/or blackouts in recent months or years.”

Europeans are generally far more sanguine about things like maintenance, failures and outages, which appear as responses less commonly than in America. North American respondents fears network outage above all (58 per cent rank as having maximum impact), while specific application failure haunts Europeans (49 per cent ranks as having maximum impact; 42 per cent ranking network outage the same way).

Remote disaster recovery sites are commonplace, with 87 per cent of respondents across both regions acknowledging they have one. However, in Europe 39 per cent of these are within same city compared with 21 per cent in America, casting doubt on whether they are well-located – not least given Europe’s present greater fear of terrorism. Perhaps reflecting a greater understanding of the scope of a natural disaster, almost 70 per cent of North American DR sites are in a different State, while just 12 per cent of European DR sites are in a different country.

Somewhat more surprisingly, of the 75 per cent of companies of less than 500 people that have a BC plan, a further 75 per cent have a remote DR site – a significant achievement on generally much tighter budgets. This group is all the more impressive because nearly 40 per cent of these DR sites are genuinely remote: beyond the same city, county or state but within the same country.

Automated replication between primary and DR sites has been implemented by 79 per cent of European, but only 60 per cent of North American respondents. Failover clustering solutions are also considerably more prevalent in Europe: 53 vs. 29 per cent.

Other key differences between respondents in Europe and America include the prevalence of Microsoft Windows as a platform for business critical applications, and a major attitude difference towards testing business continuity plans.

Eighty seven per cent of European respondents run business critical applications on Microsoft Windows in Europe, but only 77 per cent in North America. There doesn’t appear to be a major operating system ‘big loser’ on the other hand. The losers appear to be less common platforms: in Europe only 19 per cent use minor operating systems for critical applications, as opposed to 27 per cent in America.

Over 22 per cent of European respondents test their business continuity plan monthly, a frequency matched by only 4 per cent of North American respondents. There is a slight compensation in that 4.3 per cent of North Americans test weekly (zero per cent in Europe), but in other respects testing frequencies were comparable – including about 5 per cent saying not at all.

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