Back to Business

Back to Business

By Friday, Phase Three of the disaster recovery plan was launched: a search for new offices and permanent IT equipment and services. Negotiations were started for a temporary site in New Jersey, at a dock facility owned by Maersk Sealand, a Madison, N.J.-based international shipping and terminal operating company. "We'll be on the third floor this time, and it won't be a landmark building," Lepczyk says. NYSA also launched negotiations to find a more permanent site, and all the while, the job of keeping the cargos moving must continue without letup. "Right now we're making arrangements to buy all the new computers and furniture and phones we'll need at the Maersk site," says Lepczyk. "Then we'll need to set up the new communications lines to all our end-users, so we can make the move. Then when we make the move to a permanent location, we'll have to set up new T-1 lines and link them to the temporary site for the transition."

Looking back at the crisis, Lepczyk and Strcich say they wouldn't do much differently, but Strcich acknowledges that he now wants to have additional data backups that will include duplicate copies of the backup tapes he sends every day to Iron Mountain—just in case something happens to the first set. NYSA is also considering altering its disaster plan to include near-site transportation options for employees who would need to leave the vicinity of the building—and is reviewing the company's cellphone policies to see if the association might equip each worker with a cellphone at the association's expense.

Lepczyk and Strcich also cite a number of lessons for other companies to consider when they review their own disaster plans in the wake of the attack and in the face of the prolonged new threat of terrorism.

First, says Strcich, protect your people. That may sound obvious, but it can't be stressed enough, he says. "You can have all these grand disaster recovery plans, but if you lose your people, they're not good for anything and your company is out of business," he says.

Second, back up data continuously and store it off-site. Strcich says many companies in New York's financial district were crippled by the disaster for days even though their buildings had not been hit and even though they routinely backed up all their data. "The problem was that they didn't store their backup data off-site," he says. When, for security reasons, police and National Guard troops barred entry to the entire financial district for several days, those companies were stuck—in much the same way NYSA had been stuck during the 1993 truck bomb attack.

Third, line up in advance an alternate location, complete with compatible computers and phones, including some cellphones and updated contact numbers for employees, customers, partners and vendors. "You've got to have an alternate site where you can go on a moment's notice to keep operating," says Lepczyk. "It doesn't do you any good to have your data tapes and nothing to run them on."

In that respect, larger companies have generally fared better. Ford Motor Company, for example, has a permanent emergency facility located 20 miles from its executive offices in Dearborn, Mich. The company's entire treasury department simply went there and continued operations uninterrupted on Sept. 11 and 12, when there were concerns that terrorists might be planning other attacks. "It's the little companies that have the hardest time," says Lepczyk. "If you were a mom-and-pop pizza place across the street from the World Trade Center, you're out of business." Still, he says, smaller companies that may not be able to afford to maintain a permanent emergency office site can always contract for space at disaster recovery firms like SunGard or Comdisco Inc.

Finally, emergency systems need to be tested—not just partial tests, but full-scale runs. Once a year, the association has what it calls "hot-site drills" at its emergency offices. Ironically, though, this year the company postponed its annual full-scale drill—scheduled for late August but delayed due to logistics scheduling problems between NYSA and SunGard. "We were actually about to run it when the planes hit the World Trade Center," Lepcyzk recalls. "Turns out our drill this year was the real thing."

This article was originally published on 10-01-2001
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