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Businesses remain largely apathetic about disaster recovery even after they have seen the effects of catastrophic communications failures first hand, according to a survey out this week.

A poll of more than 1,000 firms in and around Manchester taken shortly after a serious fire in a BT hub in the city last March reveals evidence of complacency about communications disaster planning. The findings illustrate the uphill battle the UK faces to alert companies of the need to plan for the unexpected disasters or the effects of possible terrorist action, according to communication services firm Direct Response, which commissioned the study.

The Manchester fire brought 130,000 phone lines down, half of which still hadn’t been restored several days later. This left some companies without communications for up to five days. The fire had an impact on voice communications in 60 per cent of those polled by Direct response. Email, fax or Internet operations were also affected in 38 per cent of companies affected by the fire. Many small businesses in Greater Manchester were hard hit by the knock on effects of the massive blaze.

Angie Robinson of Manchester Chamber of Commerce commented at the time that "businesses in this area are losing £4.5m a day. It’s unlikely that they will be able to claim any of this back."

Three quarters of organisations quizzed by Direct Response admitted they would lose sales calls if the event of a similar incident again. Almost one in five (18 per cent) estimated they would lose more than 100 enquiries per day in the event of a repeat performance of the fire. Despite this only a third of the companies polled by Direct Response had a disaster recovery or business continuity plan in place.

Direct Response's study revealed widespread ignorance about disaster recovery options and a misconception that business continuity services were only suited to larger organisations.

Chris Robinson, managing director of Direct Response, said: “Our experience of disruption of this type is that companies fail to have in place even the most basic solutions. A disaster recovery plan does not need to be complicated, nor do its elements need to be expensive. Often, just getting a business’s phones to automatically divert to a location scripted to manage them can make a huge difference, as can making sure the firm backs up data to a remote location.” ®

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