Safety Zone

Creating a shelter for data in a dangerous world.

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"Thinking about disaster recovery on the level of a CIO is certainly appropriate. But if disaster recovery in its own right is strictly an IT function, you're only recovering all of IT. You're not recovering HR, accounting and other departmental applications," says Bailey. "From a global perspective, for overall crisis management and business recovery, all the potential impact is on the business side."

For that reason, managers in financial or operations departments can be more effective leaders, because those are the areas of business that get affected by data disruptions. "[Business continuity plan] ownership is very ineffective from IT," Bailey says.

At The AES Corp., a $9.5 billion global energy firm in Arlington, Va., IT managers are implementing companywide business-continuity standards to ensure that power generation and distribution facilities located in far-flung places such as Cameroon, Pakistan and Panama stay up and running during a crisis.

According to CIO George Coulter, passage of the U.S. Cyber Information Security Act, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2005, inspired the IT group to put global standards in place. The company set up data centers in Europe and the Eastern U.S. and a global WAN connected with fiber to provide real-time load balancing.

With 70% of its business outside the U.S. and 135 businesses in all -- including 124 power generation businesses, nine distribution businesses and 15 million customers worldwide -- getting everyone on the global WAN and conforming to companywide business-continuity standards wasn't easy, says Coulter.

"It's extremely challenging, but we treat all businesses with the same standard," he says. "With the data centers in place and the global WAN, we don't have to worry about in-country problems, even in areas like Cameroon. Business by business, we connected them to the data center, and those problems go away."

Coulter says AES chose the data center sites not because they're in relatively stable global regions, but because they're on the 311Mbit/sec. fiber backbone used by AES's network infrastructure provider.

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