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Plan for the unexpected

Computer Weekly Staff

The recent floods in the North of England and elsewhere will cost businesses up to £170m in IT damage. Among small and medium-sized enterprises especially, inadequate insurance, an absence of back-up systems, and a lack of business continuity planning paint a sorry picture.

SMEs do not exist in isolation, and it is vital that the business continuity best practices that are becoming embedded in larger companies are extended to smaller organisations.

A 2006 survey by the London Chambers of Commerce found that only 30% of firms in the capital had updated their contingency plans in the light of avian flu, but since then, the Financial Sector Continuity website, representing the Treasury, the Bank of England and the Financial Services Authority, has continued to report progress in preparedness. Similarly heartening are reports from analyst firm Forrester that 24% of large firms and 15% of SMEs consider disaster recovery to be a top priority.

The threat of an avian flu pandemic may be relayed in the media more mutedly now than a year or two ago, but it cannot be discounted. And last month's terrorist attacks in Glasgow and London have served to remind us of an ideologically-driven threat to business and civil continuity.

No one would have credited the notion that the city of Sheffield would be underwater during the month of June 2007. Expect the unexpected is a moral to be drawn there.

Establishing remote working as a business norm can be a key strategy in gearing up for extreme weather, an outbreak of avian flu, or a terrorist attack. There are potential productivity gains in providing staff with remote access to systems, but it also enables a business to continue to serve its customers when disaster strikes - a goal that will get the attention of board-level management.

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