Survey Finds Disaster Recovery Disconnect Between CEOs and CIOs

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Are businesses prepared to handle unexpected disasters? It depends who in the organization you ask, according to a recent survey researching disaster recovery plans and organizations' overall readiness to deal with it.

A recent survey of enterprise executives, to be released on Monday, found that corporate executives and their chief information officers often view the issue from opposite ends of the spectrum. For the survey, 274 American executives and 254 European executives were interviewed, all of them working at companies that bring in at least $1 billion in annual revenue. They were chosen from a variety of industries.

The collective term "business executives" includes CEOs, board directors and senior finance officers for the purposes of the telephone survey, which was sponsored by EMC and conducted by RoperASW in April and May 2003.

The difference of opinion between American business executives and CIOs on the question of disaster recovery was quite significant. Only 14 percent of the executives think their company's data would be "very vulnerable" in a disaster, a number that nearly quadrupled to 52 percent when CIOs were asked the same question, the survey's authors said.

The divergence continued when the question of disaster downtime was asked. Ninety-one percent of business executives thought a three-day period of downtime could be expected following a disaster that included losing business-critical data. The number dropped to 78 percent when IT officials were asked about downtime.

EMC Director of Business Continuity Marketing Stephen Higgins told Network World that this is the first survey to look at how business executives and IT staff view disaster recovery issues.

"We've all felt, from a gut perspective, that the IT and the business executives have been somewhat out of synch," he said. This study proves that "the gut was right," he said. "There really is a gap."

The survey found that European business executives and their IT counterparts are closer together on the disaster recovery issue. This could be for two possible reasons, said EMC's Higgins. First, "The fact that the organizations tend to be a little flatter in the European marketplace probably leads to better communications between the CIOs and business executives," he said. Second, European history has simply made businesses there more aware of the possibility of a man-made disaster, like a terrorist attack, he said. "They're just more sensitive to those situations than their American counterparts."

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