[ISN] IT managers brace for Isabel

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Sep 17 2003 - 22:39:00 PDT

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    Story by Lucas Mearian 
    SEPTEMBER 17, 2003 
    IT managers along the mid-Atlantic coast are busy double-checking
    telecommunication lines and reviewing disaster recovery plans in
    preparation for Hurricane Isabel, which could cause billions of
    dollars in damage depending on where it hits tomorrow. Most in danger
    are telecommunications and other technology infrastructures in both
    the private and government sectors.
    The U.S. Census Bureau this week calculated that nearly 50 million
    people could be affected by the hurricane when it comes ashore. As of
    late today, the National Hurricane Center was expecting landfall along
    the North Carolina coast, with strong winds, heavy rain and flooding
    expected as far north as New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
    Mark Pennington, information systems director for the Virginia
    Department of Emergency Management in Richmond, said telecommunication
    lines are of particular concern for state and private entities because
    a wet summer has left many trees susceptible to strong winds. "It
    doesn't take much to put a single node out of business. There's a
    large amount of concern with trees still in soggy ground, and with
    high winds coming in, we're worried about them doing damage to telecom
    lines," he said.
    Pennington said he's reviewing his agency's business recovery plans to
    ensure they're up to date, and he has replicated all servers to hot
    sites "so if we do get hit hard, at least our information is moved
    off-site." He has also checked backup generators to ensure that
    they're running and fuel tanks are full.
    The Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the state's
    counterpart to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, also began
    archiving disk hard drives as well as tapes in its underground bunker
    operations center for disaster recovery purposes, Pennington said. "We
    ended up with servers with hot-swappable SCSI drives, and it occurred
    to us that it would be a pretty decent way to back up data. It's a lot
    easier to restore from disk than tape backup. And with the SCSI drive,
    we can pretty much plug it in and go."
    But for keeping operations running during a disaster, Pennington and
    others say low tech may be key. For example, he's stocked up on boxes
    of pencils and legal pads.
    John Griffin, vice president for business continuity and emergency
    preparedness at Verizon Communications, said that among the top tips
    the company is offering customers is not to rely on cordless phones
    for communications during the hurricane but instead to distribute
    phones that can work during a power outage. He also pointed out that
    laptop computers will also be able to function over Digital Subscriber
    Line and dial-up lines during an outage.
    Griffin said there are more than 300 telecommunications switching
    stations in the path of Hurricane Isabel, an area that he's assuming
    will lose power.
    This morning, Verizon activated its internal command and control
    infrastructure plan, which places staff on alert in corporate,
    business unit and regional control centers for monitoring and
    responding to any emergencies. "We're checking and double-checking
    communications links. There's a lot of preparation for event
    management and recovery," Griffin said. "When the event occurs, we
    have to already know who's going to do what, and how you'll monitor
    Verizon's corporate center is located in New York, but it has
    corporate backup facilities in Texas as well as state and regional
    redundant backup centers in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania,
    Griffin said.
    Earlier this month, New York-based American International Group Inc.  
    (AIG) announced the opening of a new 200,000-square-foot data center
    facility in Fort Worth, Texas, which will provide business continuity
    and disaster recovery capabilities to AIG member companies. The
    centers have 150TB of storage capacity and asynchronously mirror all
    changes to production data.
    Mark Popolano, CIO at AIG, said the hurricane may offer the first
    real-world test for restoring data to the company's New Jersey data
    center from the backup site in Texas.
    "In the event of an emergency, we can flip our centers over and bring
    up our applications in the second facility," he said. "We also have
    people identified that in worst-case scenarios can be put up in
    hotels. But we have people both in Fort Worth as well as in New Jersey
    that can respond to these emergencies."
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