The great DR divide

Business continuity solutions only for large organisations?

IT vendors and consulting firms who 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’s no end of people willing to talk to you about the latest technology and techniques in this area. Whether it’s preventing disruptive events, or recovering quickly from them when they occur, you have lots of options to explore.

When Freeform Dynamics recently polled 160 IT professionals in 50 to 1,000 employee organisations across the UK, France and Germany, however, it was clear that things are little different in the small to medium business (SMB) environment. Despite the fact that a catastrophic IT related failure can be as devastating in a smaller organisation as it is 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.

During the research, we 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 vendors, all of these options should in theory be both relevant and accessible to SMBs from a pricing and skills perspective. What struck us immediately when we looked at the results, however, was the number of respondents that answered “Don’t see as relevant”:

You’ll also notice from the “Unsure” responses on above chart that a lot of SMB 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:

Concerns about cost benefit and the complexity of implementing and running some of the solutions listed came across in the anecdotal feedback, but 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’s available before answering.

And this brings us to a really important point. While suppliers are all wrapped in using incomprehensible jargon selling to DR specialists in large enterprises, IT professionals working in the SMB 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’s only during 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 at the moment do seem to be perpetuating a DR divide between SMBs and large enterprise.

One call to action here for vendors operating in this area is to better mobilise and support resellers and integrators that work with SMB 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.

Having said this, it’s worth noting that it’s not all about the advanced DR solutions we have been discussing. 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. In fact, we identified 7 key DR enablers by looking at what SMBs claiming better capability had in common, and only one of these related to specialist technologies.

For more on this, check out our previous article or download the full report from the research, which is available here.


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Dale is a co-founder of Freeform Dynamics, and today runs the company. As part of this, he oversees the organisation’s industry coverage and research agenda, which tracks technology trends and developments, along with IT-related buying behaviour among mainstream enterprises, SMBs and public sector organisations.