Can You Really Plan for All Contingencies?

While you can plan for, and work around, most snags, you can't plan for them all.

As I found out when our company moved its headquarters a mere six blocks away between last August and January, theres a lot of planning that goes into moving a data center: relocating telecommunications facilities, room mechanics such as electricity and air conditioning, the physical movement of the equipment, and having contingency plans in case things dont go as planned. Since this particular move—which involved 1,500 users and 100 servers—was to happen in phases over several months, we had to have the old and new data centers operational at the same time. Some things that I never expected to encounter during the move include:

• Unexpected interruptions. Our new building houses the diplomatic office of a Middle Eastern government. Whenever dignitaries visited, the freight elevator was shut down and all deliveries halted. It was just my luck for Mr. Foreign Dignitary to show up just as the truck with our servers pulled up to the loading dock.

• The dark. Unbeknown to us, the data center lighting was installed with a timer. The lights automatically went off at midnight. We learned this the first time we worked late in the new data center, as we were trying to install the servers for Phase 1 and get them online by 6 a.m. Unable to find the timer or any kind of override switch, the networking team scrounged for lamps and finished their task working in what could at best be described as bright shadows.

• Labor disputes. Our desktop team arrived Saturday morning to install 300 PCs for Phase 1. It was a crowded work area, since the painters, carpenters and electricians were scrambling to finish their job by Monday morning—as were we. However, the desktop technicians were not members of any union, and construction in Manhattan is extremely union-dependent. A shouting match ensued between the head of the desktop team and the shop steward as to who "owned" the desktop installation. I was called to help mediate, but as I arrived, I heard one union member shout, "Lets see them install computers without electricity."

While you can plan for, and work around, some snags, you cant plan for them all. But the best contingency planning consists of a hard-working, dedicated staff—like the one I have the pleasure of managing—that is prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure success.

Brian D. Jaffe, an IT director in New York, can be reached at [email protected]