Sept. 11 Eased Blackout

The effects of this month's blackout were minimized by lessons IT learned after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Lessons learned after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks served IT well in the wake of this months blackout. As a result, few companies suffered significant data loss.

And as the damage assessment continued last week, its clear that the power failure came with its own series of lessons and may have sparked a renewed interest in preparation, redundancy and backup.

IBM Global Services business continuity and recovery operation was working with customers within 5 minutes of the outage, officials said. IBM would not reveal the number of customers it helped, but officials said IBM used backup facilities in the New York metro area, Toronto, Washington and Philadelphia and in Colorado.

The work was expedited because, since Sept. 11, more users have included people in their business continuity plans along with more distributed systems. "More clients include who to call, who makes decisions, where to call with questions in their recovery plans," said Pat Corcoran, director of business development for IGS service, in Sterling Forest, N.Y.


Meanwhile, SunGard Availability Services, of Wayne, Pa., had most of its customers back online in a matter of hours, depending on their services contracts, said officials.

After Sept. 11, SunGard expanded its end-user capability in the New York area by 100,000 square feet and added 1,000 recovery personnel. SunGard provided recovery service for 66 companies and more than 2,100 users during the blackout at eight of its 38 recovery facilities.

Across the region, enterprises, especially large, metropolitan companies that bolstered their infrastructures in the wake of Sept. 11, saw their systems hold up fairly well.

Some users did suffer disk failures due to overheating in organizations where UPSes (uninterruptible power supplies) protected servers but not air-conditioning systems. Many administrators said they felt lucky the power failed in the afternoon and not at night, when tape backups are usually under way.

Ryerson Universitys Larry Lemieux, in Toronto, said hes seeing "more support from more executives on funding" for items such as diesel generators. Lemieux, the schools assistant director of computing and communications, said his new UPS system held up well. Ryerson lost power again while rebooting several servers, but its Oracle Corp. databases survived because of self-rebuilding features, he said.

However, Eric Shaw, president of Assured Technologies Inc., in Mineola N.Y., nearly had a disaster. The consultants client, a midsize plumbing company with about 40 service trucks, could not access its main server disks. "Some very important changes were made that could have meant the end of the business," Shaw said.

Shaws salvation came from Eden Prairie, Minn., data recovery specialist Kroll Ontrack Inc., which saved the drives—well worth the $3,000 to $4,000 cost, he said.