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Magtype/CR: Multiple Backup Apps
Magtype/CR provides computer support for companies in southwestern Connecticut. When news of the storm came, Erik Shanabrough, an IT Support Technician for the company, decided to get ahead of the game. He and other support colleagues communicated with their customers several days in advance to work out a disaster recovery plan on what to do if the power went out. Full backups were created and moved offsite.
“Where possible, we went to locations prior to the storm and grabbed redundant copies of the data to take to a second location – we stored the backups in a waterproof safe,” Shanabrough said. “At one location we physically moved the server away from a windowed area to the center of the office.”
Some customers fared better than others. One business has offices situated about 100 yards from the coast. The first floor flooded. Fortunately, the IT equipment was housed on the upper floors. However, power was lost and the building closed for two days. Power was restored on the second day and, in the meantime, staff could access email.
“Power was out a little over a day with multiple servers offline but users were able to access FuseMail to get incoming mail and access the last 14 days of traffic,” Shanabrough said.
Key points: Remember the basics: plan ahead of time, communicate with colleagues, use offsite locations and backup early and often.
Disaster Recovery Overview: IT and More
While this story’s focus is on IT disaster recovery, as we did our reporting work we also heard some very compelling stories that weren't strictly IT. For instance, the staff of Satellite Dialysis, in Hamilton, New Jersey, made sure to call patients daily to check on their status. Missing a dialysis treatment can be fatal, so despite four days without electricity, Internet, phone or heat, the Satellite staff found ways to get a hold of their patients. Meanwhile, they had to keep medicine refrigerated offsite, navigate dialysis centers with flashlights, and even ship supplies to a patient stranded in Florida. There were many more stories of businesses coping like this, of going the extra mile.
On the flip side, many of the organizations hit the hardest simply didn’t want to talk about their IT failures. And many were suffering from “Sandy fatigue,” as the PR representative of Internap wrote to us. (In lieu of an interview, he pointed us to Internap’s blog, which includes Sandy-related entries.)
Some of the additional takeaways we learned as we spoke to many, many businesses about Hurricane Sandy include:
• People have a keen sense of perspective during events like these. No boss in the world, or not a single one we heard about, is going to ask someone coping with a completely flooded home to come to work before dealing with family issues.
• It may sound like a Lifetime movie cliché, but people really do come together during disasters, and those who don’t lose the trust of colleagues in the organization going forward.
• Your customers will be understanding. We heard this time and again. Customers didn’t expect miracles; they just wanted to know how to move forward.
• If you devote the time and resources necessary to come up with a truly workable DR plan, your life will be much, much easier when the next disaster hits.
• However, if you don’t train your employees on that disaster recovery plan, your advance work may be wasted. Catherine M. Lepone, Director of Development at the Making Headway Foundation in Chappaqua, NY, was able to work through the storm by logging on to servers remotely to check email and voice mail. Yet she noted, “I found out I was the only one who knew how to do that.” Do all your employees understand this basic technology?
• If you dodged a bullet this time, don’t push your luck. Extreme weather events are becoming more and more common. After a year in which a third of the country experienced forest fires, nearly as much was affected by drought, and a huge swath ended up under water, denying the effects of climate change puts you in the same neighborhood as Flat Earthers. Remove that tinfoil hat and start preparing now, before it’s too late.