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Net Up, Phones Busy in Blackout

While it's still early to assess how disruptive the blackout was for businesses, analysts say most large enterprises would have been well prepared to stay up and running in the wake of the widespread power outage that hit the Eastern U.S. and parts of Canada yesterday.

But this much is already clear: Once again, the Internet has proven to be more reliable than the telephone network. As they struggle today to recover from the power outage, customers who had access to the Internet over phone lines or other connections were able to stay in touch by email and instant messaging, while many voice circuits were snarled with traffic overloads resulting in busy signals.

John McKnight, senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group Inc., says that, while "we haven't heard any horror stories yet" about businesses affected by the power outage, it will take at least until the weekend before many enterprises switch on their machines and survey the damage.

However, he says, most large companies should have been able to keep their data storage systems and servers online with either out-of-region backup plans or on-site generators.

"From a business continuity/disaster recovery planning perspective, a power outage such as yesterday's is one of the most basic contingencies that companies typically prepare for," he says. "Large enterprise-class data centers should certainly have been protected against yesterday's outage by backup generators and/or battery-powered UPS [uninterruptible power supply] systems." At the same time, he notes, smaller companies may have been much harder hit by the outage.

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