AT&T Survey Reports Majority of Houston Area Businesses Ready in the Event of a Disaster

February 16, 2005

After Tropical Storm Allison ravaged parts of the Houston area, businesses in the area reportedly became significantly more prepared for disasters than businesses in Los Angeles, Minneapolis and San
Francisco. According to a new report released by AT&T, more than 70 percent of Houston area companies surveyed have a business continuity plan in place.

The report, which was released in advance of AT&T’s Network Disaster
Recovery (NDR) exercise in Houston, surveyed more than 100 corporate decision makers in the Houston area. The survey was conduced by Opinion Research Corporation, an opinion polling company.

However, the report also found that nearly 25 percent of the Houston
companies interviewed do not have a business continuity plan and more than 20 percent of those that do have a plan have not tested the plan in more than a year. More than 30 percent of Houston businesses that responded do not consider such planning a priority.

“The best piece of advice that we can give Houston area companies is plan your test and test your plan,” said Phil Johnson, regional vice president, AT&T. “Simply putting plans together in anticipation of a disaster is not enough if they remain on the shelf, and are not practiced and kept up-to- date.”

Nearly half of the companies from the survey said that business continuity has always been a priority at their company, while 22 percent said it had become a priority in recent years because of security and terrorist threats.

Businesses that have suffered through a disaster reportedly appear to be more motivated to periodically review and update their business continuity plans. One hundred percent of the businesses surveyed that had suffered a disaster had updated their plans in the past year. Just two-thirds of those organizations that have not suffered a disaster (68 percent) have done the same.

“These numbers indicate that Houston area businesses are continuing to realize the importance of business continuity planning to ensure they aren’t caught off guard. As we approach the fourth anniversary of Tropical Storm Allison, companies need to continue to protect their business and secure their critical applications and data,” said Johnson. “Business continuity plans must address technology back-up systems and, if needed, involve an outsourced provider.”

Other findings included:
* Sixty percent have established redundant servers and/or backup sites;
* Eleven percent plan to implement them in the next six months;
* The vast majority (69 percent) said they have implemented Internet security measures such as firewalls, intrusion detection, hacker protection and/or password authentication;
* Nine percent said they will implement these Internet security measures in the next six months;
* Nearly 80 percent said that cyber security is part of their overall
business continuity plan.

Despite the Houston area’s vulnerability to hurricanes, only 48 percent of respondents monitor network or cable TV for public alert systems, while 43 percent use the Emergency Alert System and 32 percent use the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio. Most disconcerting, less than one fourth of Houston companies indicated they implement specific protective actions when the federal government raises the terrorist alert level.

AT&T’s NDR exercise is an example of disaster planning and practice. The two-day drill that begins Feb. 21, will test AT&T’s response to a simulated disaster that “destroys” a Houston data-routing and voice switching center.

AT&T has reportedly invested more than $300 million in its NDR program over the past decade.

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