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Winter Journal

Volume 31, Issue 4

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Comdisco Supports Companies' Computer Operations

Comdisco, which specializes in reestablishing large computer systems for major corporations after a disaster, is currently supporting major business customers affected by terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.

- 47 companies have declared disasters with Comdisco. The 47 customers declared 93 separate disasters.
· All 47 companies initially relocated to and worked out of Comdisco facilities. At one point, there were 3000 customer employees working out of our facilities. As of Sept. 25, 20 companies had returned to their facilities.
·Customers have primarily requested workspaces, complete with PCs and phones. Comdisco configured thousands of PCs during the first 24 hours to support customers.
·Customer Industries: Primarily financial services firms: Banks, insurance companies, investment banking and brokerage houses. Comdisco is also supporting one of the New York exchanges.
·Most customers had operations in New York, seven customers were in the World Trade Center and others were in nearby buildings. Other customers declared disasters for operations in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Atlanta because of building evacuations.
·Recovery Facilities/Capabilities: At its highpoint, Comdisco utilized 13 of its 23 U.S. recovery centers. As of September 24, seven Comdisco facilities were still in use.

Strohl Systems: Review Contingency Plans

Strohl Systems Group Inc., the global leader in continuity planning software and services, recommends that companies and organizations take immediate steps to review their contingency plans.

“As the events of September 11 show, organizations in both the public and private sectors are increasingly vulnerable to terrorism,” says Strohl Systems president Brian Turley.

“If your company has not tested its contingency or disaster recovery plan recently, it should do so without hesitation,” he says. “All employee and vendor contact information should be confirmed and updated if necessary. If a company has not reviewed its vendor contracts for some time, it would be prudent to make sure the contract-specifics reflect your company’s current needs. Recovery teams should also review their plans and confirm their responsibilities.

If your business uses a contingency planning software tool, confirm that your maintenance agreement is up-to-date.”

However, if companies do not have formal contingency plans, Turley suggests implementing a comprehensive program immediately.

IBM Focuses on Helping All Customers

When the terrorist attacks occurred on September 11, IBM immediately went to work to help all its customers - not just those who were business continuity subscribers. IBM had some 1200 customers within a three block radius of the World Trade Center.

“We fielded requests from any of our customers,” explained Don DeMarco, Director of Business Continuity and Recovery Services for IBM. “We certainly honored all contracts by our business continuity subscribers, but we also assisted any of our IBM clients who requested help.”
Within minutes of the terrorist attack, IBM requested its Business Continuity and Recovery Services unit to ramp up its New York area-based Emergency Operations Center for all of its customers who needed assistance.

“Essentially, we had two emergency operations centers in our Metropolitan New York facility,” said DeMarco. “One was for those with existing contracts with our business continuity and recovery services. The other was for any IBM customer who needed our assistance.”
Right now, the company is concentrating on its customers, many of which were displaced following the terrorist attacks. This disaster, unlike many in the past, was more about recovering end-user workspace and dealing with displaced employees.

“The human toll was staggering,” said DeMarco. “This wasn’t a failure in technology because the network remained intact outside of the impacted area in lower Manhattan. So this disaster was less about recovering systems and more about restoring the disrupted business operations directed and managed at workstations by people.”

IBM has had many requests for facility space, user workspace, work devices and labor to assist in getting the systems up and running.

The company distributed thousands of Think Pads during this event. Servers and application software were also in great demand.

DeMarco notes many lessons will be learned from this event.

“There are things we will be doing in the near future,” said DeMarco. “We will be communicating with our customers the need for total protection. It is no longer just about whether a firm has an effective IT disaster plan. It’s about protecting the entire business process.”

SunGard Shines During Recovery Efforts

At SunGard, we don’t really shine in our work until there’s a disaster. And when disaster strikes we don’t take any pleasure in the fact that there’s been a disaster, only in knowing that this is the time for us to do what we do best.

SunGard had several clients in the World Trade Center, and dozens in that area, so within minutes of the first terrorist strike, we had mobilized our Crisis Management Team. Their first meeting convened at 8:56 a.m. - eight minutes after the first plane struck the north tower By 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, just 42 minutes into the disaster, SunGard’s Crisis Management Center was fully operational. During that first week, 30 customers declared disasters, and nearly 100 additional customers put us on alert.

New York Shipping Association

New York Shipping is responsible for all of the piers at the harbor in lower Manhattan. Every year, millions of tons of cargo move into and out of that harbor, and New York Shipping makes sure everything goes smoothly.

On Sept. 11th, with offices on the 20th floor of the south tower of the WTC, New York Shipping employees had just 44 minutes from the time their building was struck to the time it collapsed. Luckily, all were evacuated safely.

Within minutes of receiving a disaster declaration from New York Shipping, our Jersey City MetroCenter was ready. We had approximately 50 workstations configured with PCs and connections to an RS/6000 in our Philadelphia MegaCenter. By Wednesday, New York Shipping was on site. By Thursday, they had their systems back up and running. And by Friday, longshoremen were back on duty.

More Success Stories

The day after the twin towers collapsed, our Jersey City MetroCenter helped a financial services company get back on its feet. On that Wednesday, the company traded 6 billion dollars in bonds.

We have a similar story with a large bank. With the help of our Jersey City MetroCenter within 24 hours of the disaster declaration, we had ACD voice recovery services activated so the bank’s customers could reach them by dialing the same numbers they had dialed before the disaster. This was a strong signal to customers that at least figuratively, the bank was still standing. And we helped a healthcare company deliver the same message.

Heroic Acts

During and directly following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, everyone acted bravely. But it’s possible that no one acted more bravely than a customer, let’s call him Don. He arrived at our Atlanta facility from New York City on the third day after the attacks. He took the bus. A 900-mile bus ride. That’s bravery! Don worked with us to restore onto an AS/400. Then we arranged remote access so Don’s fellow employees could stay in New York and work from home.

Lessons Learned

Personnel Are Critical: The importance of our key personnel in a recovery is often overlooked. Companies must develop not only a thorough business recovery plan, but also ensure that their people are familiar enough with the plan and the business to execute the plan effectively. As we learned from the company whose entire recovery team was killed, we may need to have a backup team. In the future, third-party vendors may provide these services.

Communication Plans Are Critical: Companies should establish emergency meeting places where all displaced personnel can meet following a disaster. This way, companies can quickly identify missing employees and quickly assemble a continuity team.

Back Office Recovery Is Critical: Most recovery plans focus on the data center and neglect the back office. However, companies should also plan for alternate office space, as well as such logistics as transportation, meals, hotels, and payroll.