Palm Beach Post Features RESCUECOM in Article about Data Recovery
By Stephen Pound, Palm Beach Post:
Data backup on front burner for storms
Computer manager Gabriel Romero has been on the road to disaster recovery for too long.
While New Orleans was under National Guard protection after Hurricane Katrina, he sneaked back into the city to load his employer's 115 servers onto a U-Haul truck for transport to the firm's headquarters in Philadelphia. Then, after Hurricane Rita hit, he lugged them to Dallas when the company established temporary offices there.
'The disaster recovery plan was a disaster,''he sniffed.
Romero switched jobs to Miami construction manager Sunland Group Inc. and was about to move when Hurricane Wilma struck in late October, knocking out electricity and with it, Sunland's computer network. This time, he only faced getting computers back online when power was restored five days later.
I went through Katrina, Rita and Wilma. I learned what not to do,"he said last week.
Romero is one of many managers who aren't in denial that another disastrous hurricane might strike Florida, putting computers out of commission, or worse, destroying precious data essential to a company's survival. With the promise of an active storm season this year, the unglamorous chore of data backup and storage can't be put off anymore.
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and power disruptions from the 2003-05 hurricane seasons are driving expanded business disaster planning, according to Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. A survey by Gartner last year showed 30 percent of respondents were in their initial phases of business-continuity management, meaning more companies are starting these operations.
"When people say they need a backup plan, they really mean they need a business contingency plan, and it might include restoring data that's been deleted,"Romero said.
Some companies still don't worry about preserving their basic sales, accounting and operational data. A survey conducted last year for Hewlett-Packard by Harris Interactive showed 14 percent of those polled had no backup system.
More troubling are the consequences. The cost of restoring one hard drive for a single business could be $900 to $2,000 and two lost days of work without it, said Frank Alegre, South Florida franchise owner of Rescuecom Corp., a Syracuse, N.Y.-based computer repair service.
Business owners might find it disturbing that almost one-third of businesses never reopen after a major catastrophe, according to a 2002 survey from Meta Group, which is now part of Gartner. Companies deprived of key computer systems for only 10 days never recoup their losses, and half shut their doors within five years, the study concluded.
Some companies make a specialty of weighing the risk to business continuity of lost data and personnel.
Last week, IBM"s Boca Raton office began to consult with companies about their vulnerability to a pandemic as bird flu spreads in Asia and Europe. IBM asks questions such as: Can your business operate without travel? Are people cross-trained in case someone falls ill? Is your company capable of creating a virtual workplace?
"It makes customers sit back and say, "How would I handle this?" And if the answer is, "I couldn"t," they call us,"IBM engineer Rich Cocchiara said.
Safeguarding data used to involve simply storing documents in a safe place. That's still part of the plan for many businesses and public institutions. Hospitals need to preserve X-rays and other sensitive patient data, and local governments are required to keep legal records safe from destruction by water or fire.
Archive One has two buildings off Congress Avenue in Boynton Beach totaling 101,000 square feet where it stores boxes of paper documents and backup computer tapes. The buildings' walls and roof are a foot thick.
"Everybody has hard copies. Paper doesn't go away,"said Kim Longacre, the company's marketing director.
Archive One, a privately held division of Reading, England-based C2C Systems Ltd., also sends out vans and trucks daily to pick up boxed material for storage. During hurricanes, the pickup schedule extends until road conditions are declared unsafe.
"Many companies will send their documents home with their (computer) directors or secretaries,"Longacre said. "But in an impending hurricane, folks shouldn't be worrying about their company's data. That's what your company is: the data."
More and more, data backup and storage is done digitally.
Iron Mountain Inc. of Boston, for instance, downloads data from a business server or computer and stores a copy remotely in one of its 800 records-management operations around the world. The company has more than 235,000 customers and pulled in more than $2 billion in sales last year.
Locally, Host.net stores computers and servers for other companies at its data center in Boca Raton. Lenny Chesal, the company's executive vice president of sales, describes it as "a fortress where they can store their gear."Its concrete room, emergency generators and fiber-optic cables ensure that data continues to flow to customers and remote offices.
"Information is critical,"Chesal said. "If you're doing business with someone in Des Moines, they don't care about the hurricanes in Florida."
Host.net has empty office space that it rents to companies where they can move if a hurricane knocks out power or destroys their building.
Law firm Greenspoon Marder P.A., which has offices in Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and elsewhere in Florida, will begin setting up backup servers at Host.net in the next month. After Hurricane Wilma, many of the firm's 57 attorneys worked remotely for two weeks, with assistants commuting to and from lawyers' homes rather than offices.
"We work for a lot of entrepreneurs, and they don't want to hear that we can't work on their corporate matters because we're without power,"said Scott Ross, Greenspoon's chief operating officer. "It took a lot of coordination."
And money. For high-speed data and phone connections and storage, it costs Greenspoon $180,000 a year. With so-called data co-location, it will run $330,000, and if the law firm decides to reserve emergency office space or house trailers, the cost could rise to $370,000.
Romero's construction management company in Miami has contracted with a Boca Raton company, AcXess Inc., for its new service. It not only digitally stores a copy of customers' data but also their business-critical software applications.
AcXess stores backed-up data and computer programs in an ATT data center in Atlanta, and customers can access it using a password-protected Web site. AcXess Chief Technology Officer Ray Leitz calls it "flipping the switch."
After a hurricane, a business without a mirrored set of data and applications might take a week or more to return to normal.
"We become their back office, technically, and it's got to work,"AcXess Chief Executive Tony Zalenski said.
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