Preparing for IT Recovery from a Hurricane

Preparing to protect IT assests against an imminent disaster-like the recent rash of hurricanes thrashing Florida and nearby-is no easy task, especially when employees are evacuating. Here is an analysis of one company's ordeal with Hurricane Iv

Jan Rideout knew it would be tough to get through the next few days.

Hurricane Ivan had drawn a bead on her part of the Gulf Coast, and she knew it would not miss.

Rideout is CIO of of Northrop Grummans Ship Systems Sector in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Her datacenters 350 Unix, Windows 2000, and Windows NT servers and 5.8 terabytes of data are the hub of a collaborative effort with the US Navy and other contractors to build the next generation of warships for the US fleet.

The hurricane potentially could have wiped away hundreds of man-years of engineering work and brought operations at Pascagoula to a hard stop.

Fortunately, Rideout had a plan. In fact, she had a plan of long standing, which is important when your company periodically finds itself in the bulls eye of disaster. And because her organization has two locations, one just outside New Orleans, the chance of being on the spot was doubled.

"Theres a big emphasis on business continuity planning at Northrop Grumman," Rideout explained. "We have procedures and we follow them." The company has developed its plans out of long experience, but they also practice the plan and audit it.

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But Rideout also noted that sometimes, not everything follows the plan, and then they have to do the best they can.

"Our basic procedure calls for us to shut down," Rideout explained. She noted that they were paying very close attention to a private weather forecasting service, ImpactWeather, Inc. ( for the latest word on exactly where Ivan would come ashore, and just how bad the results would be. "Theyre never wrong," she said.

After watching Ivans progress for days, on September 14, Rideout knew the time had come to take action. "We made the decision Tuesday morning," she explained. Her Avondale facility, just outside of New Orleans had to be shut down first because the area was being evacuated. She started backups that had to be completed by noon.

The next step was to back up the massive store of data in Pascagoula – everything from engineering drawings of the ships the company builds to parts lists and material for collaboration. It all had to be saved. "Fortunately, we had just done weekly backups Monday," Rideout explained, so all that was required was an incremental backup.

Next Page: Deciding which services to keep running.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...