CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- While businesses of all shapes and sizes, including credit unions, often point to data security as a vital issue, perhaps not all that many have centralized, enterprise-wide business continuity mechanisms in place in case of a data emergency, according to a new report.
But many of them are doing something about it. Forrester Research says 56% of technology decision-makers at some of the world's largest corporations in a recent survey cite purchasing or upgrading crisis response plans as either an "important" or "critical" endeavor for the next fiscal year.
Most of these same companies, however, are sorely lacking in the ability to implement such plans if/when the time occurs, according to Forrester analyst Stephanie Balouras. Moreover, the plans are often limited to basic Microsoft Word or Excel files focused on process versus action.
"Using these tools can lead firms to mistakenly treat business continuity planning as a one-time event because the collaboration, coordination, regular maintenance, testing, and reporting capabilities are labor-intensive and ineffective," Balouras says in her report, a market overview of business continuity software.
"But internal and external pressures are forcing firms to take a more formal approach to business continuity planning, requiring more effective tools to create, maintain, test, and communicate plans," Balouras says.
A variety of Web and/or Windows-based, business continuity software packages and solutions are helping fill the void between process and action, the think firm says.
The software solutions mentioned in the Forrester report streamline collaboration procedures, map out core dependencies, and--arguably most important--allow firms to execute "what if" scenarios to test the potency of existing plans. Finally, reporting and notification capabilities help track trends while keeping employees in the crisis loop.
In Forrester Research's opinion:
-Strohl Systems, well known in the credit union space, is the market leader in this sector, with nearly 40 years of experience in business continuity.
-Binomial International and COOP Systems packages offer solutions easiest to implement.
-Business Protections Systems
specialize in servicing clients in the financial sector.
-CPACS features the most flexibility and scalability in product offerings.
-eBRP Solutions are packed with advanced crisis response modeling capabilities.
-Office-Shadow emphasizes risk management and compliance.
-Sungard parlays knowledge of disaster recovery to its continuity software.
Business continuity software runs the whole gamut in both price and scale. Entry-level packages (for example, Binomial International's Phoenix Disaster Recovery Planning System) are the easiest to implement, but likewise are the most basic in functionality, Balouras says. Priced at around $10,000, these packages are often limited to process recovery templates.
Mid-tier software solutions (such as CPACS' scaled-up solutions) can carry twice the price of their entry-level counterparts, but emphasize core continuity planning and maintenance while featuring optional add-ons.
Finally, the most robust IT crisis planning software (Forrester cites Strohl Systems' complete package) weighs in at six figures apiece. Along with them are the tools needed to manage a comprehensive, business continuity program.
Even with the most advanced packages, Balouras warns against an over-reliance on technology versus actual execution capabilities.
"Software is an enabler. It doesn't replace business continuity planning knowledge and a well-defined program," the Forrester report says.