Companies count the cost of IT failure

Broken tape cartridge

Companies are becoming more aware of the direct financial costs of computer downtime, according to a survey of IT managers.

Almost one in four companies have suffered an outage that lasted more than one business day, even though IT failures are meant to be covered by their business continuity plans.

The research, drawn from an annual survey by Neverfail, a business continuity vendor, suggests that much of the planning for an IT outage is ineffective, when it comes to protecting the business.

"IT downtime translates into real business downtime," said Andrew Barnes, senior vice president for business development at Neverfail.

"The fact that people are willing to state that it costs of 10,000 an hour, or even 1m per business day, means that businesses appear to be taking it seriously."

Greater awareness of the costs to the business of failure does not appear to translate into more resilient systems. The survey found that the number of businesses affected by outages remains stubbornly high. A full 92.8 per cent of companies said they had experienced a failure.

Businesses are becoming more aware of the costs of downtime, because in a tough trading climate, retaining customers, and maintaining revenues, has become a higher priority.

"It is much more difficult to get new customers, and businesses have to provide high levels of service to retain customers," said Barnes. "But customers are affected by outages very few businesses can now run without IT."

Businesses might not, though, be taking sufficient steps to protect infrastructure such as email, or even mobile working tools such as BlackBerry handhelds, from outages.

Such systems are seen as important because senior executives depend on them for communications, but IT departments can overlook the role of email, in particular, in supporting day to day business processes and for dealing with customers. "If someone logs a trouble ticket via a website, or someone needs to submit a tender, at some point in the process that will be submitted by email," said Barnes.

One company that has bought technology to protect their systems is law firm Bird & Bird, which uses Neverfail's software to protect its BlackBerry and document management servers.

"Our document management system is truly a business-critical function, as without it we effectively have 750 unproductive lawyers unable to perform billable work," said Jon Spencer, the firm's infrastructure manager.