With tropical storm Gustav threatening the US Gulf Coast, the IT lessons learned from the devastating Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that smashed New Orleans and other areas in 2005 are on the minds of many worried IT managers.
"We definitely have concerns about it, especially after what happened three years ago," said David Avgikos, president of Digimation , a 3-D digital animation software company in St. Rose10 miles west of New Orleans. "We don't have to be told twice."
In 2005, when the two hurricanes hit the city in quick succession, Digimation was knocked out of business for a week, and its electrical power and Web site weren't restored for two weeks. For Avgikos, those events were lessons learned.
Today, all of the company's approximately 50 PCs and servers are backed up to a main server, which is then backed up to a portable 1TB USB drive that goes out the door with the last employee who is evacuating in the event of an emergency, he said. That employee also takes an "emergency box" that includes additional DVD backups.
And the company's Web site, which was hosted in-house when Katrina and Rita struck, are now farmed out to a remote hosting company far from New Orleans so the Web site stays in operation even if the business is being affected by an emergency.
"Now, in the worst case scenario, wherever we locate to, we can go to the nearest Best Buy and get what we need to be up and running in a few hours," Avgikos said.
The company's e-mail server is remotely located, too, to ensure that e-mail access is available from wherever the company's 12 employees are in the event of an emergency.
University makes more preparations
Meanwhile, at Loyola University's New Orleans campus, a key new IT disaster recovery component has been added since the 2005 hurricanes. It is an intermediate site hosted at an out of state location set up to maintain communications and a simplified version of the school's Web site that's available with a simple DNS change.
"We had a very full-fledged disaster recovery plan prior to Katrina," said Bret Jacobs, executive director of IT for the school. But even so, what they learned from those earlier storms was that even more preparations were needed.
"Because of Katrina, we lost power in New Orleans for an extended period of time, and we realized that we wanted to keep that particular presence on the World Wide Web all the time." To do that, the school added the intermediate site for a third level of redundancy in an emergency.
That intermediate site complements on-site emergency generator power and air conditioning for the IT department, as well as complete off-site critical systems redundancy provided by disaster recovery vendor SunGard Availability Services, Jacobs said.