UK firms can't bounce back

A new report suggests the disaster recovery plans of small UK businesses leave a lot to be desired...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Only a third of UK SMEs have contingency plans in place to bounce back from some kind of business disruption, according to a new survey by recovery specialists SunGard. And after the damage caused by last year’s summer floods, the prospect of some unforeseen act of God – or a disaster of the man-made variety – putting a swathe of office buildings out of action is not so hard to imagine…

SunGard reckons most SMEs would struggle to get back up and running after this kind of disruption. It predicts that a computer hardware failure would put 40% out of action completely, flooding would scupper about 45%, and fire would have an effect on at least 90%. And if that means that your product or service gets horribly delayed, it’s not exactly going to do your reputation much good.

It’s not as if these SME owners are forgiving types when the boot is on the other foot. More than 80% said that if their chosen product wasn’t available for any reason, they’d immediately dump their regular supplier and go elsewhere. And we suspect most of you will probably sympathise: in the internet age, when alternatives are so readily available, there’s not many of us who would put brand loyalty before convenience. Yet they seem strangely reluctant to protect their own business against the same thing, according to SunGard.

Of course, there’s nothing like a bad experience to shock people out of any ‘it’ll never happen to us’ style complacency. Wirral-based publisher New Hall realised the importance of a disaster recovery plan ten years ago, when a burst water main wrecked its office. Nowadays it has a wide-ranging plan that covers everything from remote IT systems, to insurance policies, to alternative suppliers, to back-up office space. ‘The actual investment is minimal when compared to the damage any downtime would cause to our brand reputation and customer loyalty,’ reckons IT director Chris Harman.

SunGard says it received a number of cries for help in the aftermath of the flooding last year, but it couldn’t do anything much for them – whereas sensible forward-thinking types like Sheffield law firm Irwin Mitchell (one of its clients) were immediately able to decamp half their staff to one of Sungard’s Recovery Centres.

‘Education is the key,’ says SunGard’s Andrew Waterston. ‘Small businesses are under so much pressure from red tape, they just see this as another government initiative that they’d rather ignore – and that only changes when there’s a major event like the floods of last year.’ But if you start worrying about disaster recovery when your office is full of water, you’ve probably missed the boat...

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