IT execs must fight for disaster recovery money

Funding business continuity programs seen as 'a constant battle'

NEW YORK -- Business continuity managers said at a conference here this week that they're fighting to keep the budgetary ground gained in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks to ensure that disaster recovery sites remain staffed and online.

"I think the biggest challenge is always money. That's a constant battle," said Dennis Sparrow, data center director at the New York Board of Trade. "I think every company does it. Once things have settled down, we get complacent."

About a half-dozen other attendees at the 2005 Business Continuity and Corporate Security Conference agreed with Sparrow, saying their jobs often require them to act as facilitators in bringing together different business operations behind a common goal: data security and availability.

"Business continuity budgets are not getting the respect a lot of folks in this town would like to see," said Larry Tabb, an analyst at The Tabb Group, a Westboro, Mass.-based consulting and market research firm that tracks financial services IT issues.

Roseanne McSorley, director of business continuity management at Deutsche Bank Americas in New York, said that every two to three months, she has to go before an executive committee and detail her systems requirements and projected costs.

"I'm saying, 'I don't generate any revenue, but I need some money,' " said McSorley, who is also chairwoman of the Contingency Planning Exchange Inc., a New York-based professional association. "I shouldn't be sitting there alone."

McSorley has begun involving her company's chief technology officer in the meetings to help her explain to corporate executives why the bank needs to spend money on business continuity and why contingency planning must be part of the negotiating process on any acquisitions or outsourcing deals.

Until the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the New York Board of Trade's data center and trading floor were both located in a building on the World Trade Center site that was destroyed when the neighboring twin towers collapsed. Now its data center and trading floor are in separate locations within New York, Sparrow said.

The futures exchange also has a long-term lease on a 47,000-square-foot disaster recovery site owned by SunGard Data Systems Inc. and located in Long Island City.

Steven Henne, vice president of business continuity at The Bank of New York Inc., said the bank expects by the fourth quarter to complete a project to consolidate three production data centers into one and move the centralized facility about 800 miles away from the contingency site. Previously, the bank's backup data center was never more than 46 miles away from its production sites, he said.

The plan is unusual in that the New York-based bank's primary data center will now be located in Memphis, while the contingency site will be in central New Jersey. Henne said one of the biggest roadblocks is configuring applications to handle latency of 30 to 60 seconds while data is being replicated to the backup site.

Bank of New York will use software from EMC Corp. to synchronously replicate data to a secondary "data bunker" about 18 miles from its primary data center, while at the same time asynchronously replicating information updates to the disaster recovery facility.

Maintaining data consistency throughout the replication process, and finding any potential points of failure, is a must, Henne said. "The biggest challenge right now is testing everything," he added.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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