Businesses must make availability of IT services a boardroom issue because there is growing evidence of employee frustration and resentment when systems are unavailable, according to research from Imperial College.
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Many staff now expect systems to be accessible whenever they want and from any device, according to Nelson Phillips, professor of strategy and organisational behaviour at Imperial College London. “Information and systems should be available at all times," he said.
The study, based on a survey of 450 IT decision-makers conducted for information availability specialist SunGard, found that 63% of IT managers considered availability to be more than an IT infrastructure issue. They said they also needed to think beyond the IT infrastructure – taking into account people and processes.
Not everyone needs or can afford 100% reliability, so businesses should determine what systems need high availability, said SunGard managing director Keith Tilley.
“Optimal availability is down to an individual company. If you have a managed availability process, you can determine how long it will take you to be online again,” he said.
Disaster recovery needs careful consideration
John Turner, IT director at accountancy firm BDO, which is one of SunGard’s customers, was involved in the study. “Availability [of IT systems] is no longer a competitive advantage, it is a hygiene factor," he said.
"The BDO portal always has to be there for clients. This means the company takes several steps to understand and manage the risks associated with the IT in its business."
BDO’s IT department is ISO 27001 certified, which covers information security management. Turner said the company also uses SunGuard and a second disaster recovery centre outside the M25.
Turner's strategy for disaster recovery includes a process for tackling major incidents.
“Transparency in terms of communicating with people is very important," he said. "You need to get everyone in a room, tackle the root cause of the problem, and communicate both internally and externally. If I manage your expectations, you know [from an ability to work perspective] what you can do.”
If all systems and networks are down, Turner said BDO has the ability to send a text message out to all staff.
In terms of preparation, Turner organised three days of home working trials for staff, to ensure people would be able to access business-critical systems during the Olympics. He admitted that his biggest concern was that the IT infrastructure would not cope with a huge number of teleworkers, so he doubled the IT infrastructure capacity.