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July 19, 1990


By CBR Staff Writer

There is dictum called Murphy’s Law that says if something can go wrong, it is sure to do so. It’s a truism that the Amdahl Executive Institute has taken to heart, and the company has rec ently sponsored a research report prepared by Butler Cox Plc addressing computer disasters and contingency planning. The report concludes that there is a growing awareness amongst senior managers of the importance of contingency planning and the need for a positive commitment. Yet many companies still don’t take it seriously, or merely pay lip-service to the idea. Butler Cox believes that only senior management can provide the necessary commitment and cut through short-term thinking to insist on action. If the top echelons do not ensure the integrity of their computer systems, they are failing in their responsibilities as senior managers. The actual requirements are basic and fairly simple. The first is to identify the main threats and front-line defences; secondly, to prepare contingency plans and choose an approach to back-up and recovery; and thirdly, to test, review, and up date plans and procedures regularly. To do these things requires investment, and while this may appear daunting, the cost of every day insurance is often steep but accepted as a necessary business expense. If a company assesses the cost of losing its computer systems, then Butler Cox believes that the price of disaster recovery is quickly put into perspective. It was this consideration that persuaded Tesco Plc to invest some UKP15m in extensive disaster recovery facilities. The company commissioned a study on the effect of losing its mainframe systems over a period of time. It concluded that to lose mainframe capacity for more than two days would seriously affect business, and there would be a minimum loss of three months’ growth. Tesco’s annual turnover is currently around the UKP5,500m mark, and to halt growth for three months would cost the company between UKP18m and UKP24m. Tesco has since built two 15,000 square foot mainframe computer centres in Cheshunt and Stanwood to provide mutual back-up. They are equipped with two Amdahl 5990-1400s, both running Multiple Domain Facility. With 830Gb of storage, they provide back-up for 2,000 VDUs, 900 personal computers, a communications network serving 455 locations, System 36 machines in 216 stores, and Nixdorf scanning equipment in 120 stores, soon to be extended to all 375 stores. Once again, the participation of senior management was cited as essential to getting the plan approved and obtaining the equally important co-operation of Tesco branch managers and staff.

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