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10 years from Hurricane Katrina: IT lessons learned

Tony Bradley | Aug. 31, 2015
Ten years after Katrina devastated New Orleans, IT pros say being less dependent on physical locations is just one of the keys to ensuring your company doesn’t go out of business when disaster strikes.

Gardere also elaborates on the decision to implement a private cloud rather than simply provisioning services from one of the public cloud providers. He notes there are pros and cons to public cloud for any organization and that the city weighed those on a per-application basis to determine the best solution. “The City uses the cloud strategically and where appropriate to take advantage of its convenience while avoiding some of its problems. Perhaps most notably, the City has moved its payroll system to the cloud using ADP, ensuring that this critical but low bandwidth application is available regardless of the state of the City’s IT environment.”

Moving beyond the cloud

Leveraging the cloud and moving critical servers and data to a cloud-based infrastructure will help organizations in New Orleans mitigate risk and maintain business continuity the next time a major natural disaster occurs, but it’s not enough by itself. Beyond the cloud, organizations also must have a clearly defined business continuity and disaster recovery plan in place and have staff that are properly trained to execute it when the time comes.

Entergy holds yearly storm drills to prepare all of our employees for what may come. We use that time to talk about ‘what ifs’ and come up with solutions to questions posed during the drills,” says Kay Jones, a spokesperson for Entergy. “We use this time to get better at responding and be prepared for any situation that can arise when a storm hits our service territory.”

Gardere stresses the importance of performing regular maintenance on backup equipment that rarely sees use and talked about how the City of New Orleans continues to strive toward more complete testing and monitoring procedures. “We perform semi-annual tests of basic back up functions and hold an annual table-top exercise simulating a hurricane to test strategy execution. We refresh documentation and review roles and responsibilities on an annual basis.”

Live to fight another day

For some companies even the best business continuity and disaster recovery plan won’t help. A local restaurant or the corner gas station can’t just continue operating from the cloud or move to an alternate location. No amount of practicing or preparing will enable such a business to remain operational while it’s literally under water.

Those businesses can still benefit from using cloud-based applications and data storage to ensure those things survive the catastrophe, though, and thankfully most businesses are not that dependent on the specific physical location. By moving critical systems and data to the cloud and practicing to smoothly implement business continuity and disaster recovery procedures organizations can mitigate the risk of the next Katrina-like event and be prepared to continue operations.


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