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VOL. 126 | NO. 92 | Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Disaster Recovery on Minds of Some Businesses

JONATHAN DEVIN | Special to The Daily News

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Gayle Rose isn’t a storm-chaser nor does she work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but natural disasters are her territory.

In the wake of devastating tornadoes and regional flooding, the CEO of Memphis-based Electronic Vaulting Services expects businesses to think more about surviving a complete site failure.

“You think about what would happen if my business flooded tomorrow,” Rose said. “What would I need to be up and running and to keep the business running? Can you also put a value on that loss and is there a loss to your reputation?”

Those are questions on the minds of some local business owners as the Mississippi River crested around 48 feet Tuesday, close to an all-time high. Homes in Millington and Northaven, and even some on Mud Island, have already flooded and Tom Lee Park and Greenbelt Park are covered with water.

EVS was founded in 2005 and has data centers in Memphis, Dallas and the Washington area. About 80 percent of their business comes from backup and recovery of business data through a virtual platform.

The service has become wildly popular among small- and mid-sized businesses, which cannot afford to operate their own backup servers, and which would most likely shut down for good if they closed for several days during a natural disaster.

The development of virtual and wireless technology has made off-site backup storage and recovery more affordable while ending the tediousness of storing backup tapes.

Rose said the industry has refined itself even more in the last few years, and many companies like EVS offer the ability to keep a business’ operating systems and applications running even if the entire city is destroyed.

Right now, that’s more than fantasy.

“Coming on the back of Tuscaloosa, it gets the conversation happening,” said Rose, referring to the recent tornadoes that devastated the Alabama city. “Yes, we’ll see an uptick in interest.”

The city of Tuscaloosa is still assessing the economic impact of that recent storm. The exact amount of lost business revenue is not yet known, according to the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce.

Rose called the solution “geographic redundancy.” Basically a business’ data and systems are stored off site, in another region, which is unlikely to be affected by the same weather patterns. For EVS, that’s a data center outside of Washington.

Clients can access and operate all of their systems via the Internet within a matter of hours depending on the size of the data.

“The statistics that came out after (Hurricane) Katrina were amazing,” Rose said. “When a business suffers catastrophic loss, 43 percent never reopen their doors. Another 51 staggered on and closed within two years. Just 6 percent remained open.”

The figures for growth in the virtual-platform market are amazing as well.

The MSP Alliance, an international association of managed service providers, published results of a March survey by Forrester Consulting, which predicted 660 percent growth in the backup services growth market over the next two years.

Lower costs and physical security of infrastructure were the top two reasons given for the increases.

It didn’t take a flood to convince Bob Schmidt, director of computer networks and systems for Kemmons Wilson Cos., just some human error.

“We recently lost a database and we couldn’t recover it because we forgot to include it in the backup,” Schmidt said. “You start scrambling and try to rebuild information. Fortunately there were enough paper documents and information in other systems, but our department really took a hit. Our reputation suffered.”

EVS’ largest segment of clients comes from financial companies whose data security is highly regulated. Rose said most of her clients are mid-sized businesses.

Since EVS was founded after the last city-sized disaster to hit Memphis – the straight-line windstorm of 2003 dubbed “Hurricane Elvis” – they haven’t had to implement disaster recovery yet, but Rose said that she encourages her clients to undergo recovery tests.

“The disaster recovery is a new offering for EVS and it’s not in very many locations yet because it’s new to us,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of demand and I think after the flood we’re going to hear more.

“About the backup that we do, we have people call us continuously and as a part of their quarterly or annual tests, they’ll ask for a test to make sure it works. That’s something we recommend.”

PROPERTY SALES 36 154 6,546
MORTGAGES 34 94 4,129
BANKRUPTCIES 43 126 3,396