Disaster recovery planners can learn a lot from "The Walking Dead"

IT disaster recovery (DR) planners are a pretty grim bunch generally.  After all, death and destruction are the things that emergency managers, continuity planners and disaster recovery experts revel in.  It's what they have to plan for:  The unexpected.

Well, what can be any more unexpected than the dead returning to life and eating your developers?  And let me tell you, those developers are hard to replace!

Of course, you probably will not be sweating the developers' demise, what with you being chased by the undead and all.  But I think there are still a few precautions you can take to defend your data center against "The Walking Dead."

Oh, speaking of "The Walking Dead":  "The Walking Dead" debuts on AMC television this Halloween night at 10PM, Eastern time.  Directed by Frank Darabont, the premiere episode is ninety minutes of sheer zombie enjoyment!  The series' first season consists of six episodes.  It is based on the Image Comics ongoing series, written by Robert Kirkman and illustrated by Charlie Adlard.

Back to the task at hand:  You'll need some manuals and texts to get you started.  Fortunately, academia is on top of the situation.  The University of Florida (UF) published a zombie attack plan this time last year.  It is an excellent first step toward preparations for the coming siege from the recently deceased. Your HR department will want you to use the "Infected Co-Worker Dispatch Form" in the UF manual.  In triplicate if copiers are working, please.  

Then, of course, you can also buy Max Brooks' seminal zombie manual, "The Zombie Survival Guide."  It is an excellent guide for workers in the field and is highly recommended.

Now these works are a sufficient start, but let's face facts.  They really don't speak to the unique concerns of IT professionals.  So how are CIOs to prepare for the onslaught of ravenously hungry, flesh-eating ghouls?

First:  Recall that a zombie apocalypse is just another pandemic. Except this time, don't get bitten!  Disinfection and sanitization consists of cleaning up infected blood and body parts.  Take great care not to get any blood or fluids into open wounds, or you'll be taking a quick dirt nap, only to rise again and thirst for the network administrator.

Second:  Recognize that communications will go out quickly.  This is extremely bad, since reliable communication allows for intelligence, and intelligence is the only way to know what is going on in your area, let alone around the world.  Plan for extended communications outages, possibly permanently.  Have a backup method of accessing the Internet; preferably, satellite communications. Grab sat phones and distribute to your key staff members, especially ones with generators, weapons and gardens.  They'll come in very handy down the road.  A good primer:  "George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead", with its emphasis on computers, mass telecommunications and YouTube posts from all over the world in a time of grave crisis.

Third:  Understand you will need to fortify your data centers against attacks.  Board up all doors and windows and cover all doors and windows with heavy blankets to guard against excaping light and sound.  Stay out of sight for extended periods of time, especially at night.  Zombies are attracted by light and sound. So Ixnay on the deathmetal bands on the loudspeaker system.  Make sure you have plenty of fuel for the generator.  About a year's worth would be good.

Fourth:  Lay in heavy supplies of high-protein food and lots and lots of water.  Have a plan to acquire additional food, water, and weapons for essential staff.  Eschew guns in favor of simpler instruments such as axes, baseball bats and the like.  Guns are noisy, and as you will see Sunday evening, noise is bad Bad BAD.  Also have a plan to dispose of human waste, and twice-dead people. 

Fifth:  Have your telework plan in place NOW.  Telework is essential to surviving the coming fleshstorm.  Expect mass absenteeism as employees hunker down at home or in fortified shelters.  But you still want them to bang out that weekly sales report!  It all depends on what you fear the most:  the undead, or the manager.   Telework will also give you an idea if you are going to have enough people to meet the organization's goals.  If logins decline, well, you know your people are coming to get you, Barbara.

Sixth:  The longer the time between meals for a zombie, the slower he/she/it shambles.  Fast zombies are not really zombies; they are infected by some other invasive thing.  Nonetheless, if you are chased by a fast anything, run.

Seventh:  Know the location of your local National Guard armory, military base, police department and sheriff's office.  Plan the most direct way there that does not cut through a college campus or large housing development.  You never know when you will need the occasional Humvee or grenade.

Eighth:  Watch Zombieland and memorize the Rules.  They are good rules to follow!

Ninth:  Have a great Halloween!  There are just some things you cannot prepare for.

Scott McPherson is the CIO for the Florida House of Representatives.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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