As New York braces for the Republican National Convention this week, IT managers at the citys financial services companies may be nervous about the potential for terrorism, but theyre prepared.
Having learned from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the massive power blackout of 2003, many Manhattan-based companies are now hardened with beefed-up disaster recovery initiatives, such as encrypted data backup processes, remote backup facilities and redundant telecommunications systems.
John Shaffer, like IT managers at financial companies across the city, has checked and rechecked his backup and disaster recovery systems to ensure availability of his companys critical IT resources.
“Theres definitely a concern. [Terrorists] have obviously picked buildings in our area that are potential targets. Who really knows whats going to happen?” said Shaffer, director of technology at Greenhill & Co. Inc., an investment bank located near Madison Square Garden, site of the RNC. “Weve been reviewing our plans to make sure that in the worst-case scenario, I [can] move my e-mail someplace else.”
The tragic events of Sept. 11 triggered Shaffer and his company to begin implementing serious disaster recovery measures. Some of these included moving its backup facility from New York to Connecticut and providing redundant telecommunications systems outside New York.
“I think companies have figured out that they cant have all their assets sitting in one place; you need things outside the city,” Shaffer said. “But they still come here to do the work.”
Looking to eliminate possible single points of failure, Shaffer said his company is also considering deploying VOIP (voice-over-IP) technologies to enable employees to work remotely. Also under consideration is a wireless installation around the companys facility that would reroute calls via a satellite dish, should ground wires become unusable or temporarily disrupted.
While the threat of terrorism has remained somewhat of a constant in New York, the RNC has pushed companies located in the area around Madison Square Garden to aggressively plug any holes in their disaster recovery strategies.
“I started getting calls before the specific terror targets were named, more convention-centric questions,” said Bruce Leibstone, president of Warren Systems Group Inc., a New York company that provides desktop and server infrastructure support services. “Theyve asked me, My office is downtown—is there something I should be doing? A lot of firms get far removed from the backup process until its needed.”
One of Warren Systems most-sought-after services during the RNC will be an encrypted backup service powered by EVault Inc. technology that can take scheduled or triggered snapshots of customer data without affecting server replication.
Russ Vernon, chief operating officer of asset management company Barrett Associates Inc., turned to Warren Systems for help crafting an emergency telecommuting plan during the RNC.
To prepare, Barrett studied employee commuting habits, determining, for example, which critical employees come in from New Jersey at Pennsylvania Station, which is located under Madison Square Garden, or live in the neighborhood around the arena. Vernon then ensured that Barretts systems provide remote access for those employees.
“I guess the convention is the next issue in New York, but it could easily be the weather hitting the Florida coast,” Vernon said. “We dont look at any one issue, like the convention, different from any other disaster. We need to be ready for anything, whether seen or unforeseen.”
To shore up its business continuity measures, CDC Ixis North America Inc., the U.S. arm of a French bank, earlier this year deployed Verizon Communications Corp.s Enterprise Advance Network. The service provides a 2.4G-bps SONET (Synchronous Optical Network) ring that links voice and data between CDC Ixis two New York offices and the companys New Jersey disaster recovery site.
But thats not all. CDC Ixis Chief Communications Officer, Kieran Long, said his company is only months away from adding a mirrored production site in New Jersey that will enable it to have two active instances of its IT operations that back up each other.
The RNCs IT staff said they are ensuring that their own systems remain open at all times. “Our first line of defense is redundancy. Most everyone has a cell and a land line,” said Max Everett, director of IT for the RNC. “Were working directly with the Secret Service and US-CERT to ensure our data integrity and network security.”