Aug 19 2008

Top 3 Strategic Priorities For Small Business IT Leaders

Lee Copeland, Editor in Chief
Photo: Orlando Copeland

Disaster Recovery. Remote access. Security. Those are the top three strategic priorities for IT leaders at small to medium-sized businesses, according to a recent BizTech reader poll.

Surprised? So, why are these issues at the top of so many IT managers’ to-do lists?

According to Scott Preston, CIO of Houston-based Fulbright & Jaworski, the better question is: Why has it taken so long for these issues to become hot topics?

“In my opinion, disaster recovery, remote access and security are all part of a general [and healthy] paranoia we have about the condition of our world,” explains Preston.

“People are very frustrated; the economy looks bad. Energy prices are going through the roof. We have record numbers of mortgage foreclosures, record numbers of layoffs and we have banks going bankrupt. I think more and more people start thinking, ‘How can I make sure my business will survive? How can I make sure my data is safe?’”

Disaster recovery, remote access and security are interrelated. As more and more businesses put their mission-critical processes and data onto the network, it becomes more important than ever to ensure that those who need access to that information can get it — regardless of where they work — and to make sure that data is secure.

Some think of disaster recovery as a way to deal with unpredictable natural disasters. Yet, a sound disaster recovery plan covers more than random lightning strikes or an electrical fire. In fact, in a previous BizTech reader poll, only 18 percent of IT managers said natural disasters were the main driver behind their disaster recovery and business continuity plans. About half the readers named hardware failures as their top worry. You don’t have to work very long in IT to experience the joy of a failed server reboot. The most common causes of hardware failures have nothing to do with Mother Nature. Instead, it’s the dirty or busted tape drive, the overloaded electrical circuit, improper server shutdowns or corrupted data that cause the biggest IT headaches and unexpected business interruptions.

Disaster recovery planning covers both sides of the spectrum and, at its core, focuses on information availability and continuity of operations. Unfortunately, numerous IT managers say they find it difficult to get funding for live backup systems until after a system goes down during peak business hours.

Increasingly, due to the twin problems of surging gas prices and road congestion, commuting to the corporate office every day isn’t a practical or attractive option. Businesses are finding that they can’t scrimp on remote access and stay competitive. Some employees simply can’t afford to commute to the office; for others, work/life balance makes the commute untenable. And, for those workers who must travel to do their jobs, remote system access — that’s highly available and secure — is a necessity.

At a time when budgets are tighter than ever, IT leaders are putting their budget dollars toward ensuring that systems stay up, secure and accessible.

In this uncertain business climate, IT managers don’t want to take on undue risk. As one reader put it, “This isn’t the right time for heroics.” In other words, no one wants the sole responsibility for restoring the company on his or her shoulders. The business and the data that drives it are inseparable. And, in the event of system failure or security breach, it’s not just a server or application that could go down; it’s the entire business.

Lee Copeland
Editor in Chief