Developing a Plan B after disaster [The Lima News, Ohio :: ]
(Lima News (OH) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) April 13--LIMA -- The phrase "business continuity" doesn't sound thrilling, but what it is -- keeping a business operating in the event of a disaster -- is enough to get folks paying attention.
It is the keynote topic at this year's Lima Regional Information Technology Alliance's annual tech conference Thursday at Veterans Memorial Civic Center. The conference includes education sessions, vendors, meals, door prizes and a keynote speech from Eric Niehaus, with Procter & Gamble's Lima Plant. Niehaus will share parts of the plant's infrastructure as a case study on leveraging multi-site storage clustering. He led a three-year plan to bring P&G Lima up to standards for information technology continuity and disaster recovery.
As organizations become more dependent on technology, things such as backing up data with redundant and off-site storage and alternative plans to move people back to work and a company back to production have become more important. Having a plan is smart business, said Nicholas Moore, information systems technician with Superior Federal Credit Union and chair of LRITA.
"Business continuity isn't just an IT problem, it's a problem for anyone with a critical stake in a medium- to large-size business," Moore said. "The past few years it's taken off, with virtualization. You can now have physical servers in a backup location. As the technology advanced, there's more options."
In January 2008, Bryon Winner learned the strengths and weaknesses of his company's plan. On Jan. 18, contractor digging a trench line near Tuttle Construction struck a gas line, and shortly after the building was evacuated, a massive explosion collapsed the front half of the building.
Winner, director of safety for Tuttle, and other officials with the company suddenly had a lot to figure out. After safety concerns were addressed, the staff had to move back to production, in the case of Tuttle, providing construction and construction services to clients.
"We had a plan, but no one ever expected to use it. We reoccupied our building within a year," Winner said. "We had a business continuity plan, but the thing we added afterward was to apply deadlines to things, we didn't assign days to functions. Now, we know payroll will be back by three days, IT by seven days, three days for project support -- that's how we bring the money in. We determined the amount of time before any outage threatens the survival of a company, and determined those deadlines, and our critical functions."
Information and data systems professionals are typically highly involved in company's business continuity plans because so much today revolves around those functions: recovering data in the event of a disaster, getting employees working at home or a temporary location, managing off-site servers.
People sometimes confuse disaster recovery with business continuity, Moore said, but really one is a part of the other.
"Disaster recovery is just a small part of overall business continuity. It is the process of saving data with the sole purpose of being able to recover it in the event of a disaster," Moore said. "Business continuity however represents a much larger scope than the recovery of just the data and equipment. Business continuity is a detailed plan on how to keep your overall business operations working in a event of a disaster."
Winner and Moore both talked about off-site backups being key to maintaining operations. At Tuttle, certain employees had leadership responsibilities as recovery leaders with specific tasks. Very soon after the explosion, employees were either working at home or at temporary offices downtown and in a trailer at the Shawnee Road office site.
Sometimes, a business just wants to be able to resume operations. Other times, a municipality has basic functions of government it must be able to perform. In 2013, Lima Utilities Director Gary Sheely wanted to shut down the city servers for a weekend of maintenance work in the building they're housed. Data Systems Manager Gary Wurst said it couldn't be done, because too many functions -- including email and phone -- would be interrupted for too long.
The city is now creating a live redundant server system in space that held the jail in the Police Department, and working on a plan that would create an off-site cold backup and temporary office space.
Over the course of Wurst's career, he's seen the curve of technology demand the response.
"When I started at the city, we had 25 PCs," Wurst said. "Now we're up to 20-plus servers."
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