IT suppliers and consulting firms which sell disaster recovery (DR) or business continuity solutions are all over large enterprises.
If you are a specialist working in a big corporate environment, there is no end of people willing to talk to you about the latest technology and techniques in this area. Whether to prevent disruptive events, or recover quickly from them when they occur, there are lots of options to explore.
When Freeform Dynamics polled 160 IT professionals organisations across the UK, France and Germany with between 50 and 1,000 employees, however, it was clear that things are little different in the small to medium enterprise (SME) environment.
Despite the fact that a catastrophic IT-related failure can be as devastating in a small organisation as it would be in a larger one, the perception among those responsible for IT-related DR is that few of the more advanced techniques and solutions are available to them.
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Business continuity technology for SMEs
During the research, Freeform Dynamics explored a range of DR technologies and techniques, taking care to define them where necessary so respondents understood what we were talking about.
From our discussions with suppliers, all of these options should, in theory, be both relevant and accessible to SMEs from a pricing and skills perspective. What struck us immediately when we looked at the results, however, was the number of respondents who answered “don’t see as relevant” (Figure 1).
The level of “unsure” responses in Figure 1 also show that a lot of SME IT staff simply don’t know enough to make a judgement. Meanwhile, quite a few are obviously not totally happy with the traditional file-based backup approach, which is most widely used.
Drilling into this a bit more, many respondents told us they considered more advanced solutions as being either "overkill" or "impractical" in their environment (Figure 2).
Concerns about cost benefit and the complexity of implementing and running some of the solutions listed came across in the anecdotal feedback, although we should point out that interviewers had to provide definitions in a lot of cases, so we cannot take this too literally.
A different picture may have emerged should respondents have had the time to research options and familiarise themselves properly with what is available before answering.
Raising disaster recovery awareness among SMEs
While suppliers are all wrapped in using incomprehensible jargon selling to DR specialists in large enterprises, IT professionals working in the SME space, who are often "Jacks of all trades", are simply not being provided with information and attention to allow them to get up to speed.
To be fair, it has only been in the past few years that the price and complexity of some of the more advanced approaches have come down to make them viable in a smaller-scale context. Nevertheless, suppliers seem to be perpetuating a DR divide between SMEs and large enterprises.
One call to action for suppliers operating in this area is to better mobilise and support resellers and integrators that work with SME customers. However, it would also be helpful to simplify language and messaging and stop making straightforward solutions sound like rocket science. This isn’t helpful.
Meanwhile, we would encourage those responsible for IT-related DR in smaller organisations to revisit options for creating a more robust and recoverable infrastructure, particularly if it is a while since this has been looked at.
Read more about disaster recovery and business continuity planning for SMEs
Applying general technologies to disaster recovery
It is worth noting, however, that it is not all about advanced DR solutions. These can clearly help, but a lot can also be achieved by applying more generic techniques such as virtualisation, disk-based backup and server hosting.
Freeform Dynamics identified seven key DR enablers by looking at what SMEs claiming better capability had in common, and only one of these related to specialist technologies.
Dale Vile is CEO of Freeform Dynamics Ltd.