Sidebar: IT Shops Prepare for Worst, Suffer Minimal Disruptions

Hurricane Frances dumped nearly 15 inches of rain on some parts of Florida. But IT managers interviewed last week said their data centers were spared major damage and mainly suffered power disruptions that led them to rely on diesel generators to keep systems running.

"We're still paddling faster than the waters are rising," said David Gawaluck, CIO at Lakeland Regional Medical Center. Soaking rains knocked out power to one of the hospital's nursing units on Sept. 5, forcing the IT team to run the unit's PCs and other equipment on generator power for four hours, Gawaluck said.

He added that two days before Frances arrived, the hospital sent a set of backup storage tapes to an Iron Mountain Inc. data center in Philadelphia as a precaution. As it turned out, Lakeland Regional's data center had electricity throughout the storm.

At Lockheed Martin Enterprise Information Systems, help desk calls that are normally split between facilities in Orlando and Denver were all routed to Denver over the Labor Day weekend, said Elaine Hinsdale, director of communications.

Company officials also decided to take three e-mail servers that support 7,000-plus Orlando-area workers off-line before Frances hit, Hinsdale said. In addition, they took down nine application servers across the state, including one in Lakeland that supports a significant amount of payroll and finance processing. Fortunately, Lockheed Martin's Orlando data center didn't suffer any physical damage, she said.

The University of Miami didn't suffer any IT disruptions, but CIO Lew Temares said he and his staff learned a valuable lesson.

The university runs a server-based system from Diebold Inc. that lets students use combined identification and debit cards to pay for meals and gain access to various buildings. "We lucked out because our central generator didn't go down," Temares said. "But if it had, we could've lost access to the system for 18 hours." The IT team now plans to use servers located off-campus to back up the system.

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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