I try not to ask too much of people, but as you read this could you please stop for a moment and think …where were you exactly eight years ago today? I can tell you that, at 13:46, I was sitting in my flat waiting for the the landlord and plumber to come round and fix the shower in the master bathroom which hadn’t been quite right since I moved in when the phone rang. I had been working on a project in Dublin with colleagues from Atlanta when one of them rang me …instructed me to turn on the telly …and he would wait on the phone. We both watched the single Tower burning for a few minutes …I hung up with him and, moments later …the second plane struck the second Tower. My father in law was on business in NYC and I rang him to ensure he was okay …thankfully he was at a meeting in Connecticut …and next tried to ring my sisters who live near NYC.
By this time the lines between the USA and UK were saturated, so I got no response …and I was thoroughly convinced of two things …we were at war, and the Towers were coming down. I will never forget just how helpless I felt watching this happen real time and remotely …I had already made the decision to live in the UK permanently ….knowing that many people were losing their lives and there was precious little I could do to help.
Hours later I was finally able to get through to my sister and, after we shared the shock of the day’s events, she told me something that chills me still …she was watching the local NYC television stations who were repeatedly broadcasting a banner message which read ‘If your parents have not returned home, please dial 1-800-XXX-XXX and someone will help you.’ With a three year old PL Junior, it pains me to think of what some of those children went through with their parents either stuck between Manhattan and them …or not coming home at all. I went to bed feeling exhausted and raw…an exhaustion that would take some time to subside …but woke in the morning to understand that we weren’t at war and that, whilst tragic, the events in NYC, Washington DC, and western Pennsylvania were thankfully isolated. With better than 3,000 aeroplanes airborne at the time of the attacks, no one had been quite sure just how far or how many targets the terrorists had targeted.
A few days later I did the only thing I could really think of to ‘help’ …I drove past Buckingham Palace with her Union Jack at half mast to visit the US Embassy in London to observe the moments of silence mandated by the UK government. As Big Ben began to toll in remembrance, the entire city seemed to stop. Buses stopped, people got out of their cars to bow their heads, it was the loudest silence I had ever heard …until the silence was pierced by the mournful singing of Ray Charles ‘America the Beautiful’ which played from an open top BMW stopped next to the embassy.
What has this got to do with data storage and protection?
Firstly, forget for a moment what this has to do with technology. I’ll come on to that in a moment. Take a minute and tell your kids, wife, parents …whomever is precious to you …that you love them and how much they mean to you. If they’re not next to you, ring them. Life is too short and there are no promises …so don’t delay thinking that you’ll do it later.
Done? Great, me too and I feel better for it.
Now, technology had …and still has …a very real part in helping to heal the events of 11 September. Whilst the loss of human life was indeed tragic, what could have been even more tragic would have been an inability to assist the families of the better than 3,000 murdered. That companies in the Towers were able to stay in business post 11 September is one of the unsung elements of 11 September, and one of the principal ways that these companies were able to help the families of those lost.
How did they stay in business? Business continuity is the short answer, although it is slightly more complicated than that. Folks sometimes (okay, oftentimes!) confuse disaster recovery with business continuity. Disaster recovery systems, such as tape backups and the like, are designed to recover data in the event of a catastrophic event. That’s great, but just how long would it take to recover the data? Well, that all depends on how you are backing up data …when you are backing up data …are you sending tapes off site? …do you have systems ready to be loaded with the data from tapes? …and so on. See, I told you it could be complicated! Indeed, major technology consultancies such as IDC and Gartner believe that most major organisations would take 72 hours or more to recover …if at all …and statistics show that 90% of organisations who suffer a catastrophic event will be out of business in under a year. What to do?
This is where business continuity comes into play. Business continuity systems, generally comprised of data replication and related solutions, are designed to ensure that a business can continue to operate immediately following …in some cases during …a catastrophic event. In the case of 11 September, some of the businesses within the Towers were replicating their data …real time …to London and other cities.
One such business, located on the top three floors of the north Tower, was responsible for 25 percent of the $3 trillion U.S. government bond business on any given day and could ill afford any data loss. Their systems were designed to send any transaction in NYC to London immediately …and not ‘commit’ the transaction in NYC until the data was acknowledged and written in London within milliseconds.
They lost people …but no data. And, as such, were able to stay in business on 12 September …and in fact, still are in business …they are Cantor Fitzgerald, and data storage and protection allowed them to help the 700 Cantor Fitzgerald employee families of the victims of 11 September.
The Computacenter Storage Assessment and Strategy Service [SaSS] is designed in part to help customers understand how best to leverage their existing storage infrastructures and build bona fide business continuity systems in a cost efficient manner. You can find out more about the SaSS by clicking here.
Please feel free to contact me if you require assistance in helping to understand how best to leverage business continuity solutions.
Have a great weekend.
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