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Flirtin' With Disaster

On Wednesday, I ended up posting news, and writing my weekly Server Pipeline newsletter, from a mobile backup location (OK, it was my town library's wireless network) after my home office broadband went down for more than a day. That's my Plan A, and I do have Plans B and C to fall back upon should anything bad really happen to my setup.
Do you? I'm just one small, mobile, intelligent unit; you, on the other hand, may be running a huge server farm that may have to serve thousands of employees -- none of whom can do squat if the servers are down. It happens. Our columnist Jeffrey Shapiro, who is also a server admin in south Florida, saw up close and personal how Mother Nature can make a server installation useless when Hurricane Wilma laid waste to the region, and he's passed along some first-rate tips on how to plan for your business servers going down for a prolonged period of time.

You could easily be next; there is NO reason why not. You may not live in a hurricane zone, but plenty of areas flood. Tornadoes can strike over a wide swath of the country. And we all know that the San Francisco Bay Area is going to get The Big Quake one of these days soon -- it's not if, but when. I shudder to think what that's going to do to the IT sector in general. But that's not the only spot that could see a monster quake someday; New England gets small ones more frequently than you'd guess, and the largest earthquake in U.S. history happened not in California or Alaska, but Missouri.

As first Louisiana and then Florida showed, you're likely to have to rely on your own server continuity planning in the wake of a disaster. We know FEMA isn't going to get your machines up and running, and in fact the government itself is ill-equipped to handle a natural disaster affecting its own operations. The nature of a disaster isn't necessarily limited to physical effects of the weather, either. Can your company work under a quarantine situation resulting from a superflu? You'd better get ready for that, too.

Every disaster planner will stress one thing when asked, over and over: You don't plan as if problems can occur, you plan for when they do. Tomorrow is too late to start. So get going.