The Big Blackout, a Year Later

One year ago tomorrow, a massive blackout wiped out power throughout much of the Northeastern
U.S. and Canada, sending companies scampering to keep their businesses up
and running. The event was one of several in recent years that have raised
awareness of disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC).

“It wasn’t just the blackout, but the series of events starting with 9-11
that has raised the consciousness of the American enterprises, nay, the
worldwide community, towards data protection in general and DR in
particular,” says Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst at the Taneja
Group.

The surprise is by how much.

“We just finished a major study on next-generation remote replication and
disaster recovery solutions and were surprised at the level of awareness,
even at the storage admin level,” Taneja told Enterprise Storage
Forum
. “I did expect that there would be awareness at the CIO/CEO/CFO
level, but I was surprised that 87 percent of the respondents had some type of DR
plan in place, either at a side-wide level or at an application-specific
level. I can’t imagine this would have been even at a 40 percent level in 2001,
though I did not measure it at that time.”

Laws and regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, and SEC and NASD rules are
also driving the need to protect and access data.

“The regulations are driving the need as well,” Taneja adds. “In this day
and age, if you don’t have a DR plan in place, you are being irresponsible
as an employee. So the Big Blackout was just icing on the cake — the
DR engine had started to move well before that. The other thing to realize
is that even mid-size companies are evaluating products in this area. And
mercifully, the technology curve has caught up such that DR does not need to
be the prerogative of only the rich and few.”

Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Peter Gerr agrees that the events of Sept.
11, 2001 were a major turning point for disaster recovery and business
continuity.

“My take is that while the Northeast blackout certainly caused a lot of
inconvenience, it didn’t necessarily challenge large companies and
enterprises nearly as much as the events of September 11, 2001 did,” Gerr
told ESF. “Most large Fortune 1000 companies have had disaster
recovery and business continuity plans in place for years, but few of these
regularly test and update these plans to check the recoverability of their
data and how long it will take them to recover.”

Gerr sees two trends accelerating the adoption of disaster recovery and
business continuity solutions: the need to comply with the new regulations,
and the development of lower-cost alternatives to enterprise-class
solutions.

“The stakes have never been higher for publicly traded (Sarbanes-Oxley),
financial services (SEC and NASD regulations), and soon, healthcare (HIPAA)
organizations to ensure that they’re both protecting their data and their
customer or patient data, and also that the data is readily accessible and
retrievable in a timely fashion,” Gerr notes.

Gerr says business continuity solutions have become available to a wider
range of companies with the emergence of lower-cost ATA disk solutions from
the likes of Xiotech, Nexsan, and EMC’s CLARiiON ATA, in conjunction with
new data management and data protection solutions like virtual tape
(Quantum, Overland, FalconStor, Sepaton, Diligent, and EMC’s CLARiiON Disk
Library), backup to disk targets (NetApp’s NearStore, Avamar, and Data
Domain), and Continuous Data Protection solutions (Revivio, Mendocino and
Topio).

“Users also have a bevy of software solutions that enable intelligent
asynchronous replication over IP,” Gerr says, calling XOsoft and Topio the
“ones to watch” in that space.

“There are more reasons for companies to investigate and invest in DR and BC
solutions, but think of them not just for DR as it’s been traditionally
defined, but for everything from protecting more data online at once, to
doing mirroring and snapshotting over distance and over IP for cost savings,
to implementing iSCSI solutions that are much less complex and more cost
effective than dedicated Fibre Channel links and solutions,” Gerr concludes.
“More choices, less cost, less complexity and more risk of data loss should
add up to an expansion in these technologies.”

Companies like XOsoft, which shepherded customers through the Big Blackout without a hitch, have
benefited from the increased awareness of disaster recovery needs.

“XOsoft has experienced a spike in sales and overall interest in its
disaster recovery and business continuity products over the last year,” says
XOsoft CEO Leonid Shtilman. “The blackout was certainly one wakeup call for
many CIOs, but there are also other factors, such as the prevalence of
viruses, the threat of natural disasters and cyber attacks, and simple human
error that continue to keep them awake at night.”

“Companies are definitely more aware now than they were a year ago with
regard to having a dependable disaster recovery solution,” says Shtilman.

Back to Enterprise Storage Forum

Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for Time.com, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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