Averting disaster

Business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) services are becoming a way of life for organisations unwilling to take risks when it comes to ensuring the integrity of their data in the event of an emergency.

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By  Andrew Seymour Published  February 15, 2008

Business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) services are becoming a way of life for organisations unwilling to take risks when it comes to ensuring the integrity of their data in the event of an emergency.

But not every end-user ranks it top of their IT agenda, preferring instead to adopt fairly basic recovery policies. So what can Middle East resellers do to enhance their chances of selling BC/DR solutions to customers and how should they go about it?

Channel Middle East sought the wisdom of the following vendor spokespeople: Wasima Khan (WK), director EMEA field marketing at CA; Samir Achour (SA), Middle East channel manager at EMC; Vikram Suri (VS), regional midmarket and commercial manager MENA at Symantec; Khalid Khalil (KK), Middle East and Africa regional manager at Brocade; Tony Ward (TW), Middle East general manager and sales director at Hitachi Data Systems; and Martyn Molnar (MM), regional area director for Network Appliance.

In our experience, customers have more faith engaging with organisations that can boast local support or offer them servicing agreements that not only tie them to a technology choice, but to an uptime SLA-type choice.

Which sectors are showing the greatest appetite for business continuity and disaster recovery solutions, and why?

SA: The most demanding sectors in the Middle East are telecommunications and banking because of government directives, compliance and business impact. They cannot afford to lose their data or have data going down for long periods. Downtime means a lot of money and being out of business for even an hour is too costly for a telco or a bank.

KK: The financial sector, which includes banking and insurance, continues to show the greatest appetite for business continuity and disaster recovery solutions. Finance has always been the strongest sector by virtue of the requirement to protect financial data and transactional services. However, every sector is showing growth as regulations require businesses of all types to conform, from product companies to those that deliver information services.

Another sector that is investing heavily elsewhere in the world is retail, especially when it comes to the protection of credit card information and continuity of transactions, although I haven't seen that trend in the Middle East yet.

MM: The prime vertical scenario has to be financial services. The bigger, western financial institutions that are entering the market here have well-established, robust processes and they have been internationally vetted and are operating to a common standard. That's placing a lot of pressure on the domestic players and really driving very strong demand.

For us, over the past three or four months, there has been a strong uptake in the financial services sector with projects involving disaster recovery infrastructure. From a horizontal scenario, e-mail in general is becoming the nervous backbone of most organisations.

There is so much content now embedded in e-mail applications, while the growth of user bases in the Middle East is also fuelling the requirement for disaster recovery.

What are end-user customers in the Middle East looking for when it comes to investing in BC/DR solutions?

KK: For every end-user the main priority is a fast recovery time and short point of recovery, broad coverage for as many applications as possible and, of course, the cost of the solution when it comes to capital and operational expenses.

The quality of service is very important too, but essentially it's a balance between the number of critical applications and the criticality of the situation in terms of budget or investment. There are those who don't care about the cost if a fast recovery time is ensured and then there are some sectors where money is very important and they can allow more time to recovery. Those guys will look to the cost first.

MM: I think it's business resiliency. The challenge many companies have had over the past five to 10 years is that any disaster recovery scenario has been isolated to a very specific part of the business and locked down to an application or a specific vertical line of business.

What you tend to end up with is a fragmented strategy that is difficult and expensive to maintain. For an agile business looking to continuously improve the SLA it gives to its clients, that presents a very tricky strategy.

So when I talk to customers the reason why we welcome our solutions is because we provide the building blocks that can really underpin this continuous improvement framework. We use standardised components and skillsets that are transportable across all areas of the business they wish to put the strategies in place for.

TW: Manufacturers as a whole will need to really understand the pains of the customer and the solution they are looking for to reward that risk and pain, and more importantly to be able to have an educated financial conversation with those end-users so that any CAPEX and OPEX risk and rewards are completely understood.

Under that basis they must have a realistic threat and risk analysis so that if they go down this road they really understand the initial investment versus the external cost versus the reward at the back-end. And they must also have real-time recovery objectives contained within that plan.

WK: There's a straight standard requirement from most vertical customers, which is to ensure protection, recoverability and uninterrupted access to critical information. And the methodology that is used must be easy to manage. Today, IT is struggling to manage this explosive data growth because of the increased value of data to the business.

There are growing government compliance requirements and a lot of internal compliance procedures that most companies have, such as requirements and policy writing on e-mail, a specific search of keywords or Excel sheets with contact information. The customers' key priorities would be about ensuring protection and recoverability in a simplified and unified manner.

They want a product with operational efficiency that is simple and can reduce cost in the complexity of their environment.

How should a reseller approach the situation when going into a customer to talk about providing a business continuity and disaster recovery solution?

VS: One of the first things they need to look at is identifying their information assets and understanding what the information assets would mean to the organisation in the eventuality of a disaster. Then they should try to arrive at some recovery time objectives, and look at whether they could build a link between the assets and the downtime of these assets.

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