By John Pallatto  |  Posted 2004-08-13 Print this article Print

-Day Woes"> One of the major problems that the 2003 blackout revealed was that companies didnt know how to deal with an outage that lasted for more than a day, said Damian Walch, national practice executive with IBMs business resilience and continuity services in Chicago. Companies "didnt know where their employees were. They didnt know where they were going" to operate emergency business recovery systems, Walch said. "There were companies where employees were walking in the second day and they still didnt have power," with no idea how soon the problem was going to be fixed.
This has prompted companies to think harder about building higher availability into their systems to keep "the most critical business applications … running," Walch said.
Its not just a matter of building plenty of redundancy into data processing systems, Walch said: Its also a matter of training people so they will know what to do as soon as an outage hits. IBM worked with a company, which Walsh declined to name, to simulate an emergency recovery situation so the IT operations staff would understand what they had to do. The exercise simulated a sudden cable cut that the company had to work around to stay connected to its customers and to its data resources. "Their goal in doing that was to decrease the chaos that naturally occurs immediately following the service disruption," Walch said. Even in the exercise "there was some anxiety that went along with the discussions" on how the IT operations people would have to respond, he said. What the exercise revealed is true for a lot of IT departments, Walch said. "Technology operations people dont like being in the spotlight. They dont want to be the ones to make the decisions. But unfortunately in these situations they have to be the ones to make decisions," he said. This exercise was particularly valuable for the company because the 2003 power outage hit about a month later. "People understood the steps they had to go through to start the recovery procedures. It decreased the anxiety level they had to deal with," he said. Corporations are realizing that they have to address business continuity in the same way they are addressing regulatory information processing requirements, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley accounting standards and the Basel II financial reporting standards. Its not just something that would be good to have. Its something that is a corporate requirement. "What we are seeing is the companies are really thinking about not just how to build business recovery systems. They are trying to figure out how to build these failover approaches into their day-to-day business practices, "Walch said. "Rather than have companies focus on disaster recovery, you would rather have companies build an information infrastructure that maintains the availability better," he said. Check out eWEEK.coms Infrastructure Center for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.

John Pallatto John Pallatto is's Managing Editor News/West Coast. He directs eWEEK's news coverage in Silicon Valley and throughout the West Coast region. He has more than 35 years of experience as a professional journalist, which began as a report with the Hartford Courant daily newspaper in Connecticut. He was also a member of the founding staff of PC Week in March 1984. Pallatto was PC Week's West Coast bureau chief, a senior editor at Ziff Davis' Internet Computing magazine and the West Coast bureau chief at Internet World magazine.

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