Hurricane Georges: A Special Report 1Written by John E. Nevola & Michele Conry Saturday, 17 November 2007 22:09
It was looked upon very early on as an intimidating storm. Floridians seemed convinced that their east coast was its target. As they have in the past, they anticipated this storm and took the necessary precautions very early in the game. Among other things, they invoked hot-site recovery services (a.k.a. declared) in record numbers.
What started out slowly soon built up to a massive simultaneous recovery effort. Most of the requests for service came from Florida, particularly the Miami/Fort Lauderdale corridor. In addition, there were a small number of additional requests from Puerto Rico and the Gulf Coast.
Among the industries represented by these customers were Finance (including Banks), Manufacturing, Travel Agencies, Health, Transportation, Utilities, Insurance and Chemical. The platforms and configurations required included IBM 9672 mainframe, AS/400 RISC, End User Recovery, SP, and Call Center Recovery.
Even while some customers were "declaring" early, customer Account Managers were proactive in contacting their clients in the probable areas of impact. The purpose of their communications was to assist BRS clients in their preparation for recovery efforts. Unlike many recovery services providers, IBM Business Recovery Services does not attempt to dissuade clients from invoking the services they have a right to expect. IBM BRS has no declaration fee and modest usage fees which are designed to NOT be an inhibitor, distraction or obstacle when a client is deciding whether or not to utilize our services. The depth and breadth of the BRS asset base, the BRS access to additional hardware and technical resources from a worldwide Team IBM and the priority and importance IBM BRS places on assuring our clients’ business survival are the reasons why our philosophy is contrary to that of many service providers in our industry.
The results of this unique approach to managing a Regional Disaster were beneficial in many regards. There were no debates or discussions regarding the pros and cons of "declaring" or "not declaring". All of the efforts and communications between BRS and its clients were geared to those actions required to be successful. Many clients performed final backups of their systems and data. Configurations were double-checked. The customer was assigned to one of the 12 recovery centers (of 17 available) used for this event. Travel arrangements were made for both people and data. And finally, customers’ recovery teams were able to depart the impact area, arrive at the recovery center and begin restoring long before the weather became a factor.
As of this writing, 31 clients (with a total of 43 configurations) were successfully serviced by IBM BRS during Hurricane Georges. (The previous industry record, 29 simultaneous customers with 41 configurations occurred during Hurricane Erin in 1995, was also held by IBM Business Recovery Services). All of the customers retained the resources assigned to them until they decided that they no longer required them. One customer was in recovery mode for 10 days. In addition, only 7 clients had their scheduled test resources reduced or their test rescheduled.
In order to accommodate this peak customer demand, IBM BRS invoked its contingency plan for multiple regional disasters. This plan was honed to a sharp edge by the experience gained in prior regional recoveries from Hurricanes Andrew (1992), Erin (1995), Bertha (1996) and the Northridge Earthquake (1993). Beyond the substantial inventory of equipment owned by BRS, assets were identified and secured from various other international locations within IBM.
Technical resources were identified and placed on standby from numerous IBM locations around the globe. Members of BRS Canada’s technical support team were primed and ready to go on a moment’s notice. Expert technicians were flown in from BRS United Kingdom to assist in supporting this record-breaking event. At a time when every clients’ technical support people were under great stress and pressure and might be have been unable or unwilling to travel to a remote location, IBM BRS utilized the depth and reach of IBM Global Services to provide surrogate support personnel to assure successful recoveries.
The response and reaction from the customers was most heartening. They recognized and acknowledged the calm professional behavior of the support staff and the supportive approach BRS took in enabling its clients to recover. Among the many comments expressed were, "I was very satisfied with the support I received from the BRS team...", "teamwork and coordination were excellent...", " the (hot) site has been a home away from home", "All of our basic business needs were made possible." and "The BRS team were just beyond words."
When they eventually left for home, virtually every one of them were delighted with every aspect of this experience and expressed their appreciation and gratitude. By any measure, this was the largest and among the most successful single regional recovery efforts in history.
John Nevola is the Manager of IBM BRS Service Delivery for North America. He has been involved in and supported over 250 recoveries in the past nine years. Michele Conry is a Customer Satisfaction and Support Analyst for IBM BRS. She has done extensive research into recovering from disasters from the client’s perspective.