Disaster Recovery Roundtable: Whats the Worst You Can Plan For?

IT pros from various industry sectors discuss the depths to which disaster recovery planning can-and should-go.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, eWEEK Labs spoke with members of eWEEKs Corporate Partner Advisory Board to determine if the event had changed the scope of their organizations disaster recovery planning.

Participating in the roundtable were Kevin Baradet, chief technology officer at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y.; Gary Gunnerson, IT architect at Gannett Company Inc., in McLean, Va.; Tom Miller, director of IT for FoxHollow Technologies Inc., in Redwood City, Calif.; Nelson Ramos, enterprise IT strategist, Sutter Health, in Mather, Calif.; Robert Rosen, CIO at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, in Bethesda, Md.; and Francine Siconolfi, senior project manager at Aetna Inc., in Blue Bell, Pa. eWEEK Technology Editor Peter Coffee moderated the discussion.

We wanted to talk with you about some conversations that we suspect may be occurring at your locations—about whether there are any larger lessons to be learned from the Hurricane Katrina situation. Have there been major blind spots about the real nature of continuity of operations following a regional disruption?

Rosen: After 9/11, we raised the issue that its not just the computer part you have to worry about, its the people part. But even the consultants we talk to today still primarily ignore that. Theyre focused on the technology, but if people cant get there, what do you do?

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead more here about how Katrina served as a disaster recovery testing ground.

One of the interesting articles I saw was about an organization that got its people to a backup site, but there was no place for them to stay. People were sleeping on the computer room floor because there was nothing in the area available for them. You really have to look at it as if youre migrating the whole operation, and all of the ancillary things that have to do with it, and people just dont do that.

Some of the organizations that are part of your sphere of operations—Im thinking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, which I guess you talk to quite frequently—probably think more often than most organizations about being in a disrupted environment.

Rosen: We do have some discussion about that. It depends on the amount of backup or readiness they [require].

It was much more obvious when I was at [the U.S. Army Research Laboratory], and we dealt with the [Department of Defense] people. They seemed to do much more—they did a couple of things that people are missing out on. One, they did a very thorough risk assessment, which included looking at all the different possibilities and then figuring out what you had to do if things came to pass. They would do these paper exercises to help them think about [questions such as]: What are all the things we would need? How do we get our people there if theres no transportation? And where do people stay if we do get them there?

Taking New Orleans as an example, even if you got your people to the backup site, are they even going to show up because theyre worried about their families? You at least need to think about these things, and Ive found that people arent, even today.

Next Page: Health care concerns.