This Week in NW
Business will never be the same, Gartner says
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Analysts with research firm Gartner Wednesday held a phone conference to offer advice on disaster recovery and business continuation following Tuesday's terrorist attacks against the U.S. Their advice to companies: prepare yourselves, because business as we know it in the U.S. has changed forever.
More than half a dozen analysts, with specialties ranging from cyberterrorism to non-IT disaster recovery, joined the conference call to offer some basic guidance and answer questions from clients. They pointed out how the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks underline the need for disaster recovery plans, crisis management teams, and business-continuation processes throughout corporate America.
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On a more dramatic note, one analyst stressed that nearly all aspects of U.S. business need to be reassessed because the country has moved into a political climate of heightened terrorism, and perhaps war.
"One thing I would urge companies to do is not to take this particular type of incident as isolated, (and as one that is) not going to happen in the future. Massive terrorist attacks are no longer just the realm of theory," said French Caldwell, a research director with Gartner who focuses on U.S. policy and non-IT threat assessment. "Management that does not respond to this is going to face problems with just maintaining their own existence. Today, if you don't have crisis-management capabilities, you're not going to be prepared for the world we live in."
Caldwell outlined the ways in which business could change in the short term, and perhaps beyond: travel restrictions would make maintaining operations in, and doing business with, foreign countries more difficult; and increased security could strain communication between offices, particularly in sending and receiving sensitive company information across borders.
"We may be taking a step backwards over the next couple of years as far as international relations are concerned, and in how this is going to affect business," he said.
Looking to the opportunities that this new political climate could create, Caldwell said that many of the new weapon systems that the Pentagon could come to rely on are heavily dependent on technology. That could create new business for IT vendors.
Another analyst, Richard Steinnon, warned that the way companies conduct business online will change, too.
"With global tensions increased, especially if the U.S. takes retaliatory action, we can expect attacks on our infrastructure," Steinnon said. He suggested that companies should assess their chances of being a likely target for cyberterrorism, and to closely monitor Web sites for signs of attack. The institutions he considers to be at high risk are financial and e-commerce companies, as well as infrastructure concerns such as airlines and utilities.
Other analysts stressed the importance of having a disaster recovery plan that is simple to follow, documented, and known by employees. Relying on one employee or on a process that is not documented will only leave a company vulnerable, especially in a life-threatening event.
Gartner analysts also said that it's never too late to devise a disaster recovery program. Tuesday's attacks should give concerned IT professionals working at companies that haven't devised such plans the proof they need to convince executives of the importance of disaster recovery plans.
For companies struggling to recover from Tuesday's disaster that don't have a recovery plan, Gartner has posted a list of emergency steps it recommends on its Web site.
In light of Tuesday's tragedy, the firm has made all of its Web-based research freely available. It also plans to hold conference calls on Thursday and Friday, and perhaps next week, to continue answering questions on disaster recovery.
The IDG News Service is a Network World affiliate.
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