Are you OK?" That was the subject line of most of the e-mail I sent and received on Sept. 11, in my NYC office, four miles from the World Trade Center.
"OK" will only come with time and pain. It makes you envious of technology, which, for many companies affected by the tragedy, had to be made OK almost immediately.
Most of us in IT are now looking anew at disaster recovery planning. Here are some things to consider:
The first thing that comes to mind regarding my own environment is increasing the functionality of my West Coast hub so that it more closely mirrors the one in New York. Im also thinking about avoiding dependence on a single carrier, and I want to look at how much functionality I could provide to Internet-connected users, whether theyre at home, hotel, disaster recovery site or so forth. And what if the company e-mail system were impacted? Employees could probably get by in the short term with some free Yahoo accounts until their mail server was restored.
Im also thinking about things that have nothing to do with technology, such as, where would the company regroup? Where would we find chairs and tables to make an ad hoc office? How about trying to sign a lease for office space on (very) short notice?
And how would you keep employees informed about the office being closed and the status of the recovery? In a case like the WTC, youd have to inform employees where the office would be, along with driving directions.
Disaster recovery plans have traditionally relied on telephones for communicating with employees. But on Sept. 11 and the days that followed, telephones proved to be one of the less effective ways of communicating. IT managers might consider using the company Web site instead. Its often hosted at another location, so it may be up when nothing else in your office is. Have your employees been told where to turn to get information about the company if a disaster hits?
When you stop and think about this long laundry list of items needed for a business to recover from a disaster, it makes the technology recovery necessitated by the WTC attacks seem truly amazing. After all, those workers had to do their jobs at the same time they were witnessing the true meaning of disaster.
Brian D. Jaffe is an IT manager in New York and co-author of "IT Managers Handbooks: Getting Your New Job Done" (Morgan Kaufmann Publishers). He can be reached at email@example.com.