Ireland tops for business continuity — survey

18 Oct 2006

Irish businesses are ahead of other European countries in preparedness for business continuity, a new survey has found.

According to research undertaken by Coleman Parkes on behalf of Citrix, 52pc of Irish companies provide systems that would allow staff to keep working in the event of a business interruption, a far higher figure than in France (21pc), Italy (25pc) and Germany (33pc). The downside to that statistic is that 48pc of Irish companies lack the technology to keep the business running.

Paradoxically, many Irish companies see business continuity planning as essential, with 70pc of those surveyed believing that a major disaster or event would have catastrophic or at least very severe effects on their ability to function in the absence of a business continuity plan.

Another sign that Irish firms take business continuity more seriously than other European companies was that 40pc of companies here assign a middle manager who is responsible for the implementation and content of a business continuity plan compared with Germany (25pc), France (27pc), Italy (18pc) and Spain (30pc).

“The CEO or chairman is quite often very active in this,” said Richard Jackson, Citrix managing director, UK, Ireland and South Africa. “We had a worry that it was an IT thing but business continuity is a business issue, so we’re quite pleased about that [finding], It is decided at board level but rather than being given to the IT department it’s given to a senior or middle manager to own the project.”

Jackson acknowledged that historically business continuity planning tended to be closely associated with disaster recovery but this has changed. “We see business continuity as being able to do your work from wherever you need to do it; we see disaster recovery as planning for a specific moment in time. Business continuity is more focused on the people,” he said.

According to the survey, there are several technologies that would allow staff to continue working if their office becomes off limits. These include server backups, webmail, working from home or another offsite location, server-based computing and PDAs.

Jackson recommended that businesses should have their important data and software applications hosted offsite or mirrored to another location so that they remain always accessible even if a company building is off limits for whatever reason. However, many businesses still keep vital information on individual computers, which may not be secure. “We’ve seen real-life examples of a lot of critical data be sitting on someone’s PC,” he pointed out.

Citrix also published a white paper recommending five steps for establishing a business continuity plan. These are: make business continuity a business issue; ensure there is adequate funding for the plan; put business continuity at the heart of the company’s culture; address the practical issues involved; and keep the business secure.

For the survey, Coleman Parkes polled senior managers in 100 companies in each of the six countries involved: Ireland, the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

By Gordon Smith