Estes Express Lines

Hurricane Gaston soaked its systems. Now the trucking company mirrors its data in sunny and dry Arizona.

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Along with these measures, Estes tightened its resolve to use traditional tape-based backup, both to keep disaster recovery costs down and to serve as an alternative if all else should fail. "You are out of your mind if you think you can live without tape," Cosby says. "It makes zero sense to put up an all-SAN solution with data de-duplication. It is very expensive and not nearly as reliable."

Ongoing dedication to tape backup is common among large corporations, says John Webster, an analyst at Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, N.H. "A majority of large businesses are still using tape, but whether tape is a growth opportunity is very much up for discussion," he says. "Tape is certainly under fire as disk solutions continue to excel. Also, there is now a renewed interest in optical solutions, which have improved vastly in performance."

Hurricane Gaston poured four feet of water into Estes' data center in 2004.

Yet for Cosby and other Estes executives, tape provides a level of comfort, as does the knowledge that the company has made every effort to insulate operations from future disasters. Cosby urges others not to tempt fate and wait for a crisis before they begin thinking through the steps it would take to stay afloat during an emergency.

As an example, he points to the fact that hardware and software damage might well pale in comparison to the public relations nightmare and credibility loss that could result if systems remain debilitated for a significant length of time.

"All of a sudden, we were off the air, and it would be hours before anyone knew anything about what had happened to us," he says, reflecting on the effects of Hurricane Gaston. "We learned from this experience that all of the precautions we have now put in place don't cost nearly as much as being out of business for a week."

Based on that experience, Cosby further advises others to act as if the worst may transpire today or tomorrow. "You've got to plan for total disaster, and then you've got to test it," he says. "The way most storage products work these days, there is the ability to test main applications anytime. Make sure you do that."

McAdams is a freelance writer in Vienna, Va. Contact her at

NEXT: Teaching Your People to React in a Disaster

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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