The survey of 274 executives at major U.S. corporations and other large organizations found that only 14 percent of business leaders believed their important business information is very vulnerable to being lost in the event of a disaster. In contrast, 52 percent of information technology executives felt their data would be very vulnerable if a disaster were to strike.
The two groups also disagreed on how long it would take to resume normal business operations in the event of a disaster. Only 9 percent of business executives said they would need three days or more to resume normal operations, while 23 percent of technology executives said recovery operations would stretch from three days to more than a week.
EMC and Roper said the gap is particularly troubling considering that pending regulatory efforts would require companies to disclose their disaster readiness and the effect that such an outage would have on business and customer confidence.
"Even with everything that has transpired over the past two years, there's still a perception that protecting data is an IT problem, not necessarily a business priority," said Carl Greiner, senior vice president at META Group.
Resuming normal business operations after three days would cost a company millions and millions of dollars and could also cause immeasurable damage in terms of customer satisfaction and reputation, according to Greiner. Based on the survey results, "Business leaders need to open their eyes, ears, and most likely their wallets to address some vulnerability in their organizations," he said.
The survey concluded that business executives "are unaware or uninformed about their business continuity capabilities," and that IT executives "are not adequately sharing or communicating the company's exposure."
Businesses are not investing sufficiently in business continuity solutions, EMC and Roper said, adding that there may be a misperception among business executives that if data is simply backed up, it is protected and can be recovered quickly.
"An expectation of recovery times measured in days seems to reflect poor awareness of the financial and customer satisfaction impact of downtime," the survey said.
"The gaps were surprising considering all of the recent attention focused on preserving and gaining access to business information and the need, in general, to be able to effectively respond to any sort of disruption in business," said RoperASW CEO Edward Keller.
"There's also a general feeling that the focus on corporate governance and regulations in the area of business continuity are going to bring issues like this even more into the forefront," Keller said. "Once compliance and reporting is on the table, it's clear that business leaders and their IT counterparts are going to have to get in sync with exactly what their capabilities are."
No Perception Gap Found In Europe
European business and technology executives, surprisingly, generally agree on their data vulnerability. The survey polled 254 senior business and IT execs in seven countries and found that 40 percent of business executives and 44 percent of IT executives feel very vulnerable.
The executives were also in agreement on expected lengthy recovery times, with a quarter of all business and IT executives surveyed in Europe feeling that it would take three days or more to resume normal business operations following a disaster.
"Our customers tell us that their greatest challenge isn't backing up their information, it's recovering and resuming operations in a timely manner," said David Goulden, EMC's executive vice president for Global Marketing and New Business Development.
Goulden said that EMC doesn't believe U.S. business leaders are being misled by their IT teams. Instead, Goulden attribuites the findings to what is likely a misperception that if the data is backed up, there is no issue. "In both the U.S. and Europe, technology executives recognize the significant challenge they would face in restoring that information to serve the business in a timely manner."
The EMC-sponsored survey was conducted by RoperASW by phone in April and May. Executives in a wide range of industries, including financial services, manufacturing, healthcare, government, retail and telecommunications, were polled.
Roughly one-third of the respondents worked for organizations with revenues of more than $5 billion a year, one-third between $2 billion and $5 billion, and one-third between $1 and $2 billion. In Europe, organizations and companies with more than 1,000 employees were selected, with 43 percent of the respondents responsible for more than 5,000 employees.