Lessons about backing up and disaster recovery from Hurricane Sandy

Posted by MailGuard Editor on 02 November 2012 01:49:00 AEDT

Events such as Superstorm Sandy currently affecting the East coast of the USA and the Queensland floods in December 2010 highlight the vulnerabilities of companies' disaster recovery/continuity plans. For example, backing up data in your primary location should be avoided where possible.

New York Times journalists Quentin Hardy and Jennifer Wortham take a look at the problems affecting IT in and around the East coast of the USA in the following piece:

(Image credit: Bryan R. Burke)

Here is a lesson every Web site manager may be taking away from Hurricane Sandy: It is probably not a good idea to put the backup power generators where it floods.

As computer centers in Lower Manhattan and New Jersey shut down or went to emergency operations after power failures and water damage Monday night, companies scrambled to move the engines of modern communication to other parts of the country. Others rushed to find fuel for backup power generation. In some cases, things just stopped.

“Suddenly, nobody could get online,” said Arianna Huffington, president and chief executive of The Huffington Post, which went offline about 7 p.m. Monday when the computer servers of Datagram, which distribute its work on the Internet, stopped working because of rising water in Lower Manhattan.

About six hours later, Huffington Post was online, but it crashed again several hours later. It was running again at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

As more of life moves online, damage to critical Internet systems affect more of the economy, and disasters like Hurricane Sandy reveal vulnerabilities from the sometimes ad hoc organization of computer networks. In places like Manhattan, advanced technology comes up against aging infrastructure and space constraints, forcing servers and generators to use whatever space is available.

Power is the primary worry, since an abrupt network shutdown can destroy data, but problems can also stem from something as simple as not keeping a crisis plan updated.

“If you have an e-commerce system taking an order from the Web, it may touch 17 servers, all in different locations,” said James Staten, an analyst with Forrester Research. One server might contain customer information, he said, while others work with logistics, product availability or billing. “If you don’t list them all as mission critical, you’re in trouble when disaster occurs.”

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Topics: Email Continuity

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