• United States



by Michael Karp

Can your website afford a day off?

Feb 16, 20013 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

With the average cost of enterprise computer systems decreasing 9 times per year (on average for four hours per event), computer downtime costs U.S. businesses an estimated $4 billion per year. One research organization dedicated to disaster research estimates that downtime costs range from $14K to $6.5M per HOUR (with ATM services on the low end, and brokerages taking the big hit).

A few estimates regarding the vulnerability of some well-known U.S. companies’ e-Businesses are:

Dell $35M per day
Intel $33M per day
Cisco $30M per day $4.5M per day
Yahoo $1.6M per day

Want some even scarier figures? Try these on for size:

  • 43% of U.S. businesses never reopen after a disaster
  • Another 29% close within two years

That means that if your firm is hit by any kind of catastrophe, you only have one chance in four of surviving the next eight quarters.

Events such as these are sometimes lumped together under the term “smoking hole syndrome,” referring to the easy-to-visualize nightmare of seeing a meteor crater where your ops center used to be. If that vision doesn’t sell disaster planning and recovery services, not much will.

In fact, disasters only account for about 8% of unplanned system downtime. The rest of the causes are attributable to more prosaic causes: to hardware, software, and human errors, and to a guy named Biff.

THE HURWITZ TAKE: OK, Biff isn’t really a guy, it’s an acronym.

Most data centers these days are connected to the outside world by high- speed fiberoptic cabling, which runs along rights of way next to farms and other sites where heavy machinery is used. “BIFF” refers to “backhoe- induced fiber failure” the state that exists when a farmer or construction worker inadvertently runs his backhoe or plow across the right of way and severs the cable. It may have been a mistake, and it certainly seems to lack dramatic impact, but your company could still be “off the air” as far as e-Business is concerned if you can’t failover to a backup facility. That costs Yahoo $66K per hour. What would your costs be?

In a world where customers will expect better than 7-second response time at a web site, what happens to your business if you are offline for an entire hour?

Which of course brings us to the question for this week: Do your IT managers know where their disaster plans are? Do they in fact have any?

Hurwitz Group sees disaster planning as an investment in business continuity that makes the best sort of sense. If you have a workable plan, your chances for business survival will certainly exceed the one-in-four quoted above; if you don’t have such a plan, IBM, Compaq, and other major storage vendors have professional services groups that offer such services. Colocation facilities are available, as are archiving services.

Hopefully we have no meteors in our future, but logic tells us that there will always be a Biff. Hurwitz Group urges its clients to hope for the best, but to plan for the alternative. Our practical advice this week: In a world now marching to Internet time, a day offline may be a cataclysm after all.