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100 Years After San Francisco Quake, IT Units Are Prepared

By Sharon Fisher
April 24, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The earthquake that destroyed much of San Francisco 100 years ago last week wasn't a one-shot disaster. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there's a 62% chance an earthquake similar in scope to the one on April 18, 1906, will hit the San Francisco Bay area during the next 30 years.

And lest Southern Californians get too sanguine, the probability is the same for a similarly strong quake there in the same time span.

With that in mind, IT managers at HOB Entertainment Inc. in Hollywood are discussing whether to replicate the company's data to a remote facility in Quincy, Wash., where it operates an amphitheater complex.

"It's a great location for collocation," said Adrian Black, manager of network operations in the department of information systems and technology at HOB. "That is such a remote location, and we own the buildings."

The Quincy facility already houses a T1 line, and a 100Mbit/sec. Internet connection is about to be installed there, Black said.

HOB, which operates the House of Blues clubs plus other performance venues, is concerned that an earthquake could cause significant damage to its headquarters in an 18-story building, Black said. He noted that the facility houses HOB's central IT operations and that the company's key financial, accounting, legal and marketing applications are all run on systems at the site.

Earthquake fears, along with a move by IT manager Sean Anderson to work remotely in Washington state, triggered Irvine, Calif.-based Comarco Inc. to build a disaster recovery center in Spokane late last year.

The decision came about two years after Anderson moved there when his Southern California home was destroyed by wildfires. "Since I'm up here and electricity is cheap in Spokane and rental space is cheap, it made sense," Anderson said.

Once it's completed, the Comarco disaster recovery system will replicate its mission-critical software, which includes MK Enterprise ERP software from SSA Global Technologies Inc., data stored on its SQL Server database, engineering source code and Exchange e-mail data.

Comarco, a provider of wireless products and services, in November installed a disaster recovery system from DoubleTake Software and is gradually replicating more and more data.

San Rafael, Calif.-based Costello & Sons Insurance Brokers Inc., which provides liability insurance for technology firms, has a four-part disaster recovery method that should provide adequate security to the company's data in the event of a minor disaster, but not necessarily a major one, said IT director Steven Perry.

First, the company has redundant servers in its headquarters offices, and second, all the data is backed up to tape at an off-site location in a bank vault across San Francisco Bay, Perry said. The third part of the security plan requires all workers to use removable external hard drives, while the final disaster recovery system is what Perry called a "doomsday book" -- a laptop with a 100GB drive and enough batteries to run the business for about a day. The laptop is taken off-site each day.

Perry acknowledged that the strategy may not keep the company running through major disasters. "Most of the stuff I worry about in terms of real-time recovery are small kinds of disasters," he said, adding that during "big-time disasters, I tend to think we would be off-line for more than the amount of time that having instantaneous recovery requires."

Read more about Security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.

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