Companies rethink some IT investments

By Ashlee Vance, IDG News Service |  Tech & society, Tech & society

When the worst-case scenario became a reality with last week's terrorist attacks in the U.S., organizations of all kinds were forced to reevaluate how they run their IT shops, providing a possible boon for several sectors of the IT industry.

Most of the financial services companies affected most directly by the collapse of the World Trade Center had impressive data recovery and data management systems already in place. Other companies around the world, however, have not prepared themselves for a disaster of this scale and are now turning to data management providers and videoconferencing vendors to solve internal issue raised by the crisis.

"Now that companies know what the worst-case scenario is, they are asking themselves, 'could we survive this?'" said Carrie Lewis, an analyst at Yankee Group Inc. in Boston. "Almost every company out there is rethinking what they are doing."

Customers are flocking to vendors, such as Electronic Data Systems Corp. (EDS), that provide data-hosting and data security services. The company has several clients that had offices in the World Trade Center, none of which lost any of the key information stored in data centers, said Rebecca Whitener, director of privacy services at EDS. Although customers' data was secure, they did require massive relocation help from EDS, with the company bringing in fleets of PCs, servers, storage and technicians to help clients resume at least limited operations.

Since the attack, EDS has seen inquiries for its services increase by about 150 percent, and it is not only companies in the U.S. that are seeking help. Potential customers in South America, Asia and Europe all have expressed a new interest in outside help to survive a disaster, Whitener said.

Financial services companies have been reluctant to outsource many IT functions in the past and will probably continue along that path due to the kinds of information they manage, said Yankee Group's Lewis. Companies in other industries, such as energy, manufacturing and health care, probably will look to beef up their data protection abilities, Lewis said.

Penn State University manages information for tens of thousands of users and had not designed a full-scale data protection plan for this type of crisis, but may now turn to outsourcing.

When the terrorist strikes occurred last Tuesday, school leaders were in the midst of a meeting to discuss what would happen if students, for example, were to take over a computer science building.

"The conversation went from talk about what was possible or hypothetical to a very serious discussion about what would happen if someone bombed the building," said Steve Kellogg, director of the Advanced Information Technologies Center at Penn State. "It was a sobering thing. The meeting was a heck of a lot more serious."

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