In an announcement IBM said the applications and data continuity practice is being established within IBM's Global Services arm and will bring together new and existing technologies to help customers prepare for the unexpected.
IBM claimed the latest methods should allow businesses to resume operations within about 20 minutes by maintaining linked remote systems that are fully synchronised with the main IT systems.
A key part of the practice is ensuring that customer applications and data files are available from a remote location if disaster strikes a main data centre, said Roger Schwanhausser, director of storage services at IBM Global Services. Too often, he said, customers think that if their data is backed up remotely, getting back into operation after a disaster is as simple as flicking a switch.
Instead, he said, data is not usually available quickly from a redundant data centre if the system has to be fired up and prepared for use beforehand.
IBM will now help customers create parallel remote data centres that feature cluster management capabilities on servers or mainframes, depending on the needs of the businesses.
By organising the remote data centres as offshoots of the main data facilities, all specified data and applications can be mirrored in a "shadow infrastructure" and be available in an emergency, Schwanhausser said. The remote centres can be located thousands of miles away.
"There have been pieces of this total solution in place in the past," he said, but he added that few businesses have prepared themselves for fast redeployment in case of an emergency.
The new services unit comes at a time when more businesses are looking over contingency plans just eight months after the terrorist attacks on the US, he said. Before 11 September, "there wasn't the heightened interest and concerns about business continuity", Schwanhausser said. "Not to overstress it, but [11 September] caused us all to re-evaluate a lot of things."
The new services are aimed at financial, travel and retail businesses - where immediate recovery is critical and can mean the difference between continued sales and huge revenue losses.
Pricing for the consulting and configuration services is likely to range from the hundreds of thousands of dollars for businesses with modest needs to tens of millions of dollars for businesses with large needs. Once established, the facilities will be run by the IT staffs of the client companies.