(Courier Mail, Sat. 02 Aug 2003)
DISASTER RECOVERY - THE NAME OF THE GAME
WHEN A BUSINESS GOES DOWN IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE TERMINAL
Guy Mosel reports on disaster recovery services.
Ian Martin's office has 200 desks, each with top-of-
the-range PCs and telephones. The office is every
employee's idea of the perfect workplace. It's
modern, comfortable, located in the heart of
Brisbane's trendy Fortitude Valley, close to public
transport, restaurants, bars and any number of
fashionable apartment complexes.
But for Martin's company, Classic Blue, a good day is a day when no one turns up.
CLASSIC Blue's Business Development
Manager, Ian Martin, at its Fortitude
Valley headquarters ... prepared to go
into action at any time.
Picture: Suzanna Clarke
The 200 desks, computers and telephones are untouched. The telephone headsets are still
in little blue plastic bags, keeping out unwanted germs. The blue carpet is immaculately
clean, the water cooler full.
But this could all change in a matter of hours. In the event of a disaster that renders one of
Classic Blue's clients unable to operate its business, Martin's office will be transformed into
an emergency workplace, where displaced employees can quickly steady the ship and keep
the business operational.
Classic Blue, which also has offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, is one of only a
handful of companies offering comprehensive disaster recovery services to corporate
And in the post-September 11 and Bali world, business is good.
"If you lose your office and all of your data, you're in major trouble. And if you don't have
disaster recovery plans in place, the chances of recovering your business after a major
incident are very slim," Martin, Classic Blue's Business Development Manager, says.
"If you look at September 11 – the majority of businesses in the World Trade Centre never
re-opened." Finito. Kaput.
Research company Gartner estimates that two out of five enterprises that experience a
disaster go out of business within five years.
The disaster recovery industry is not in its infancy. For many years, financial institutions
and large corporations have had full data back-ups and emergency offices that could be
Classic Blue Solutions Pty. Ltd., 733 Ann Street, FORTITUDE VALLEY, QLD, 4006.
Tel: (07) 3872 3111 FAX: (07) 3854 0112 ABN: 39 073 919 310
brought on-stream in the event that their normal place of business was shut down,
damaged or destroyed.
This doesn't necessarily mean disasters on the scale of the World Trade Centre attacks.
We're talking everything from floods to fire and even common or garden theft and
In the US, a stringent regulatory framework and constant threats from natural disasters
mean disaster recovery plans have been an accepted corporate requirement for years.
And in the United Kingdom, with IRA attacks a real possibility for decades, the disaster
recovery industry is a mature one.
Not so in Australia. "I find I'm doing a consultative sell to (educate) potential clients,"
Martin says. "Many Australian businesses haven't even thought that they might be in a
situation where they can't run their business. It's so much easier in the UK because people
realise that there are circumstances you can't control."
But disaster recovery is not a subject that many businesses are willing to talk about. Those
without a comprehensive plan in place don't want to advertise the fact, and those with
plans don't want to spill the beans. After all, if someone wants to bring your business down
there's hardly much point in telling them how to finish the job properly.
Until recently, many Australian companies adopted the "it can't happen to us" approach.
The millennium bug, the September 11 terrorism attacks and the Bali bombings have
changed that thinking.
Australian businesses and government agencies are beginning to realise that one single
event could render them at the least temporarily out of action and at the very worst facing
Classic Blue managing director Adrian Bogatez says: "There was a knee-jerk reaction after
September 11 and that kind of died off. "But really now we're starting to see some of the
more long-term business because regulators like APRA (the Australian Prudential Regulation
Authority) have digested all the information and what the consequences might be and have
started to implement policies.
"We're doing more business now than we were immediately after September 11."
The threat to businesses is not always as dramatic as a terrorist attack or earthquake.
Classic Blue says in a survey of businesses with continuity plans, 20.5 per cent invoked the
procedure after flooding, 6.8 per cent reacted to an explosion, while 11.4 per cent were due
to power outage and 9.1 per cent because of a systems failure.
"We're not just talking about buildings falling down, we're talking about something as
simple as data retrieval – if your data is damaged can you recover it?" says Martin.
Finance sector regulator APRA announced last year it would beef up its monitoring of the
sector's IT risk management to ensure customer data were fully protected and recoverable
in the wake of a natural disaster, telecommunications failure or terrorist incident.
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And after several recent high-profile corporate collapses, boards are increasingly aware of
the pressure they face from investors to protect shareholder wealth – not just in terms of
making sensible business decisions but protecting the company's physical assets. But
Australia still has a long way to go.
Gartner expects 60 per cent of large businesses will have invested in disaster recovery
planning by 2006 but the Macquarie Graduate School of Management says only 9 per cent
of Australian businesses have fully tested disaster recovery plans. Government bodies have
been among the leaders in ramping up disaster recovery procedures.
The Australian Taxation Office's technology budget has been boosted 10 per cent this year
with the addition of new disaster recovery systems.
And the Queensland Government investment arm, the Queensland Investment Corporation,
although unwilling to discuss its plans, also has business continuity centres, with facilities
that allow them to keep operational. Some large corporations are also beginning to boost
their disaster recovery plans.
HP Services, a leading disaster recovery provider, last month opened a multi-million-dollar
500-seat business continuity centre in Sydney specifically for use by the Commonwealth
In Queensland, financial services company Suncorp Metway operates its own in-house
"business continuity management program" for use in the event of disaster.
"It's a robust program for business continuity for use across all units," spokeswoman
Catherine Hughes says. "The plan covers a wide range of crisis scenarios from the loss of a
building to fire to a major telecommunications failure."
Bank of Queensland's Paul Turner says the company has had disaster recovery plans in
place for years but their importance has been heightened recently.
Martin said Classic Blue's Brisbane office has not yet been called upon to function as an
emergency workplace but constant testing means they are prepared to go into action at any
But like insurance companies, Classic Blue hopes that call never comes…
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