Prepare for Transportation Disasters, Too

At Eastman Chemical Co. in Kingsport, Tenn., managers realize that disaster recovery times have to take into account distance and transportation problems.

The company had two backup sites, one with IBM in Gaithersburg, Md., and one with Sungard Data Systems Inc. in Atlanta. "Twice a year we would load tapes and ship them to those locations," says Charlie Oliver, director of global infrastructure services at Eastman Chemical. But, even before the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy shut down most transportation, Oliver realized this wasn't adequate.

In early 2001 he got board approval for a second site about 30 miles away in Johnson City, Tenn., and went live with the new site in March 2002. The chemical company selected EMC Corp.'s Symmetrix hardware and the EMC Symmetrix Remote Data Facility software, and it links the two sites with a Dense Wave Division Multiplexing telecommunications pipe.

Oliver says the architecture provides more than business continuity insurance. "We replicate all our ERP and other mission-critical systems, but we also load-balance between the two, so one is not just a backup of the other," he says.

Maintaining two active, load-balanced sites results in better customer service. "Most routine failures are now invisible to our customers, since the transaction is automatically switched to the other site. We can offer extreme high availability," Oliver says.

High availability is a nice side benefit, but Oliver says the most important thing to consider when designing a new business continuity system is the nature of real disaster.

"I often hear people say, 'I can recover my environment in 24 to 48 hours,' but what they don't think about are all the other services that may go down. Lots of my colleagues count on being able to fly to a remote site, but that time is in addition to the estimated recovery time. So think about where that recovery site is located," Oliver cautions.

Leon is a freelance writer in Kilauea, Hawaii.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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