Quake and IT: Shaking in Tokyo, waiting in San Diego

No warning for Tokyo, but in the U.S., IT had time to prepare

When the earthquake struck in Japan mid-afternoon, Jason Park was in his office in Tokyo on the 39th floor. It started with a mild tremor, something that happens every few months.

"We didn't think anything of it until the tremor didn't stop," said Park, who is general manager of Japan operations for Appirio, a San Francisco-based cloud services firm.

"We saw other high-rise offices and apartments visibly shaking -- it was hard to stand without losing my balance," said Park, in an e-mail response to questions.

The building's elevators shut down, as did trains and subways. Half of his 30-member team walked home, making treks of five to 10 miles, while others waited for the trains to reopen.

Tokyo is about 150 miles away from earthquake's epicenter, and Park said there was minimal structural damage in the city. But certain portions of the Tokyo metro area experienced power outages.

From a communications standpoint, this is the situation Park said he faced: Cell networks weren't working, but land lines were; and 3G-based Web browsing was slower than usual, but worked.

The fiber Internet in his office was up, and his mobile card made a connection. Google Apps, Park's e-mail system, was also up, and there were no problems reaching Facebook and Twitter.

Amazon's newly opened Japan Web Services data center continued to operate, said Park. That was confirmed independently by another source who spoke on background.

In the U.S., the problem was much different.

The tsunami warnings gave Elysia Everett, deputy CIO of the international law firm DLA Piper, time to prepare. She received her first notification of a tsunami threat at 7:30 Eastern. This firm, with 3,500 attorneys, runs its primary data center in Baltimore and a secondary facility in San Diego.

Everett began waking up IT staff in San Diego (4:30 a.m. PST) to begin planning. At that point, all she knew was that there was a threat of a tsunami, and the San Diego data center was located downtown, not all that far from the bay.

The major concern was the loss of telecommunications services in San Diego. Before too long, everyone was assembled on a conference call to review the firm's disaster recovery plan.

Earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or more since Jan. 1 2000

Source: U.S. Geological Survey
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