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Storage in Wartime

5:35 PM -- Think you are having a tough time polishing your disaster recovery plans for a possible summer blackout? Then spare a thought for IT managers in Lebanon and northern Israel struggling to keep their servers and storage up and running in a war zone. (See Conflict Tests Mideast Firms and Blackout Looms for NYC.)

Although the Israeli and Lebanese users that responded to Byte and Switch's emails had taken stringent precautions for this type of situation, fine-tuning their disaster recovery plans for the current crisis, the vast majority of the 20 or so organizations I contacted in the region did not even reply. Clearly, there were other, more pressing, matters demanding attention.

One of the things this story highlighted to me, however, was the importance of people in a firm's disaster planning. Disaster recovery may be synonymous with mirroring technologies, remote sites, and data replication, but it also hinges on getting the right people to the right place at the right time. For one firm in Lebanon, this meant sending key staff to other offices in the Middle East on the first day of the conflict, whereas Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), according to media reports, had wireless-enabled bomb shelters for its staff in the Israeli city of Haifa.

Any disaster recovery or business continuity plan, whether you're in Beirut or Boston, needs to start with the safety of staff. Even in the era or virtualization and complex storage resource management software, there will always be a human element in IT. Firms may be desperately trying to reduce the number of staff needed to keep their systems running, but someone will always need to press that first button, whether this means booting a PC or flicking the master switch on a supercomputer. Even in our highly automated era, the human element may be easy to overlook. Truth may be the first casualty of war, but civilians get sucked in quickly behind it.

James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch