Don’t believe any statistics you don’t make up yourself


"40% of all companies that experience a major disaster will go out of business if they cannot gain access to their data within 24 hours." 

Gartner (as reported on Rackspace's Web site)

This disconcerting statistic is widely referenced in promotional materials and presentations not only by Rackspace, but also by Double-Take, EMC, VMware, Frontline Data Services and many others. I've quoted it frequently in my own presentations over the years to emphasize the importance of utilizing virtualization to enable much faster data center recovery than is possible in the physical world. The only problem is that Gartner never said it.

The first reference I can find to the actual source is in a 2006 Citrix white paper, Avian Flu and the Opportunity to Get Ready, which attributed it to a survey by Eagle Rock Alliance. But the survey, 2001 Cost of Downtime, never reported the "40%" statistic. It simply asked the question of its 163 respondents, "At what point is the survival of your company at risk?" Thirty-nine percent reported a time-frame of 24 hours or less. The white paper apparently rounded this up to 40% and translated it into the percentage of companies that go out of business if they lose access to their data for over 24 hours. The statistic was then attributed to Gartner by someone else and now has become  disaster recovery folklore.


Thanks to Rick Tanner of LabCorp who diligently researched the "Gartner" statistic after attending my presentation at the CIO Forum in Raleigh last month.

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4 Responses to Don’t believe any statistics you don’t make up yourself

  1. Pete says:

    The quote reads more like a prediction than survey results, so I am a bit skeptical. After a bit of googling I found this from 2001: which states that “Gartner estimates that two out of five enterprises that experience a disaster will go out of business in five years.”
    Also, I think Gartner is pretty good at policing their quotes. I guess I am suggesting it may be correctly attributed but not particularly sound.

  2. Steve Kaplan says:

    Thanks for your comment, though in this case it certainly looks like Gartner was not the source. Rick Tanner (mentioned in my article acknowledgements) received this email from his Gartner rep, “…there is no official prediction from Gartner on this topic of the % of firms that do, might, could, should, won’t, will (you get the picture) go out of business due to a disaster.”

  3. Shelley Owens says:

    Thanks for this. I was fact-checking quotes for a newspaper article and, being in a hurricane-plagued area, thought some of these stats may be suspect. 10 years ago or so I had a copy of a report from Miami’s Beacon Council about business survival after Hurricane Andrew. Although I no longer have the report, some of the similar statistics I’ve seen attributed to Gartner or not attributed at all remind me of what I read about small business survival after that devastating storm.

  4. Steve Kaplan says:

    Thanks Shelley. The reality is that 82% of statistics are simply made up.

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