Lesson 2

By Stan Gibson  |  Posted 2006-08-25 Print this article Print

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  • Budgets may hinder big plans. Not all New Orleans-based organizations have the luxury of rethinking disaster planning on a national scale. Tulanes Barron said the university is taking major strides to improve its preparedness, but due to cost constraints, it must keep its data center in the same leased space in a 14-story building, located across the street from the Superdome, that had its lobby flooded by 18 inches of water during the storm. Staying put violates the most important lesson of Katrina, Barron said. "Never put a data center in a building you dont own." When a disaster hits, "you have to stay in the building long enough to do what you have to do," he said, noting thats not always possible if the landlord says you cant get in. Within its limitations, Tulane is doing what it can, however. "We are putting in generators that run on diesel and natural gas. Were putting in our own air-cooled chillers for air conditioning, so we dont have to depend on the city water supply. But that project will not be done before this hurricane season is over," Barron said.
    More successful was Tulanes implementation of failover systems, using SunGard Availability Services to mirror its Web site at SunGards Philadelphia facility. Tulanes e-mail system also is mirrored, by MessageOne. "For those two communications mechanisms, weve got a failover system. Thats critically important," Barron said. The universitys data is stored on tape at an Iron Mountain facility in Baton Rouge, La. In the event of another disaster, the tapes would be flown to SunGards facility in Philadelphia, Barron said.
    Katrinas impact was felt far away, even in locations where hurricanes seldom hit. Mike Jones, vice president and CIO of Childrens Hospital and Health System, in Milwaukee—whose greatest concern is tornadoes—purchased satellite phones and deployed a ham radio system thanks to Katrina. In addition, Jones and the hospital are deploying increased amounts of medical supplies, water and diesel fuel for generators. "We can last a week already; we are going beyond that," he said. The hospitals disaster plan also must account for the fact that the hospital would likely see a surge in patients in case of an emergency. "Were a 232-bed childrens facility that could handle 300 patients, but we need to go beyond that," Jones said. He said his future thinking will be in the direction of mirrored data across different locations to create high availability, which would be particularly important as the hospital substitutes electronic forms for paper. "Clinicians have to have electronic records," he said. Next Page: Lesson 3: People run your IT systems.

    Stan Gibson is Executive Editor of eWEEK. In addition to taking part in Ziff Davis eSeminars and taking charge of special editorial projects, his columns and editorials appear regularly in both the print and online editions of eWEEK. He is chairman of eWEEK's Editorial Board, which received the 1999 Jesse H. Neal Award of the American Business Press. In ten years at eWEEK, Gibson has served eWEEK (formerly PC Week) as Executive Editor/eBiz Strategies, Deputy News Editor, Networking Editor, Assignment Editor and Department Editor. His Webcast program, 'Take Down,' appeared on Zcast.tv. He has appeared on many radio and television programs including TechTV, CNBC, PBS, WBZ-Boston, WEVD New York and New England Cable News. Gibson has appeared as keynoter at many conferences, including CAMP Expo, Society for Information Management, and the Technology Managers Forum. A 19-year veteran covering information technology, he was previously News Editor at Communications Week and was Software Editor and Systems Editor at Computerworld.

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