In his role as CIO, Steven Peltzman must ensure that the core systems of business groups in his organization are available when needed. He also recognizes that effective disaster recovery planning may require the prioritization of system availability - and some unpopular IT decisions.
Budget and technology constraints force Peltzman's IT operation at The Museum of Modern Art in New York to "take whatever heat we might get" for data loss and system shutdowns. For some systems, he said, "from what we know about how they work, it's OK if they lose data. They'll survive, and life will go on."
Peltzman said he understands why corporate management puts constraints on disaster recovery spending even though businesspeople are the ones who complain when their systems fail. However, many of his IT brethren are often at odds with business leaders on the importance of business continuity and disaster recovery technology.
Indeed, a recent survey commissioned by SunGard Availability Services found a sharp difference of opinion between IT managers and business executives on that subject. US-based Harris Interactive polled 176 corporate executives and 351 IT managers in February and March 2007. In results released this week, the US-based firm reported that 71 percent of the IT respondents said they consider disaster recovery and business continuity to be important or crucial, while just 49 percent of the business executives said they feel that way.
The survey results show that corporate and IT executives hold widely divergent views on the relative importance of the uptime of front-end applications vs back-office and network systems, the amount of funding needed to provide uninterrupted data access, and the impact of budget constraints on disaster recovery.
Realistic expectations"I think where IT managers go wrong is they think their job is to make sure every system is perfect," said Peltzman. "That's not reality - there's not an unlimited budget - and that's not the best thing for the organization.
"[IT managers] get into a tug of war, and it hurts their credibility," he added. "I think it's the better IT person that really understands the mission of the company and institution and what's right for it."
Peltzman said he sought to avoid potential clashes when the museum upgraded its IT operation in 2004, by actively seeking input from business leaders on what they needed from his group. Peltzman hired outside consultants to interview personnel in each of the museum's business divisions, and their findings were used to help craft a corporate backup program.
Jim Post, co-founder and director of product development at Biscayne Aquaculture, a builder of aquatic filtration systems in the US, takes a different view of corporate decisions about IT. The business side, he said, "just isn't aware of the costs" of disaster recovery projects, and that lack of understanding can pose enormous risk to companies.
"It should be frightening to anyone on the business side of the fence that doesn't have 100 percent assurance from IT that you have nothing to worry about," said Post. "I see the [survey's findings] as sort of the product of the ignorance of businesspeople - ignorance and taking for granted IT and computing infrastructure."
Tom Trainer, an analyst at US-based storage consultancy firm the Evaluator Group, said the gap in understanding the importance of disaster recovery and business continuity can be closed through regular communication between IT and business.
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.