The cost of system downtime is up to $6 million an hour. An Israeli start-up has developed a data replication and disaster recovery service that helps businesses keep their data safe and accessible in the event of an earthquake, fire, an act of terrorism or any other natural or man-made disaster.

Companies today are under enormous pressure to offer access to information at all times. Disruptions of access, even for short periods of time, can be extremely damaging and expensive.

In certain U.S. industries, according to Yoram Novick, Topio’s founder and CEO, the cost of system downtime is up to $6 million an hour.

Topio, which was founded in January 2001, has developed a disaster recovery solution called SANSafe, that enables businesses to replicate their data at a completely different location thousands of miles away, with minimal degradation of performance. The patent-pending product ensures that the replicated data is consistent, reliable, and available at all times.

“An earthquake, hurricane, flood, or even just human error, can damage a computer system and destroy data. SANsafe allows you to replicate the data reliably at another site, giving you a real business advantage,” says Eric Herzog, Topio?s VP of marketing.

SANSafe reduces costs by using the customer’s existing network, hardware, and software, thereby reducing the time, capital and management associated with deploying usual disaster recovery solutions. The protected data can be accessed concurrently by multiple servers running multiple operating systems and applications.

Disaster recovery is one of the hottest fields in the high-tech sector today, and one of the few that is actually growing. By the end of 2001, research firms, International Data Corp. and Gartner Group estimated that the market was worth $1.1 billion. By 2004/5 they predict that the market’s value will rise to $3 billion for software alone.

Interest in the sector began in the early 1990s, and has grown as companies expand in size and become increasingly global in character. Today one company can have dozens of locations operating 24 hours a day all over the world. Managers must have access to the data from these operations at all times. If one of their locations is destroyed, for example, in an earthquake, the parent company still needs to know precisely what was produced there and all other pertinent data.

And as more companies offer real-time solutions that call for data to be updated constantly, any kind of breakdown in operation can be extremely damaging.

One of the prime catalysts in this industry was the tragedy of September 11th, which brought home ito the corporate world , in awful clarity, how vital it is to maintain business continuity in the face of a disaster.

Topio is the brainchild of Novick, who worked at IBM Research for 13 years. During his time there he held various technical and senior management positions in the storage sector. Over the years Novick was author or co-author of 24 patents. He incorporated Topio in the US and opened R&D offices in Haifa. Today the company employs 22 people in Israel, and six in Santa Clara, California.

The company introduced its product to the market in September last year, after one and a half years of development. It is marketing the product through resellers that specialise in the disaster recovery market, and is now negotiating several sales agreements. Colt Telecom Benelux, a subsidiary of leading European business communications service provider COLT Telecom Group, has chosen SANSafe to be part of its business continuity and disaster recovery offerings to its European customer base.