ZIFFPAGE TITLELessons LearnedBy Anna Maria Virzi | Posted 2006-09-07 Print
Dennis O'Donovan, director of New York information services at law firm Sidley Austin, was working in the firm's World Trade Center north tower office on Sept. 11, 2001, when the first hijacked plane smashed into his building.
Q: How has your organization's business continuity plan changed since 2001?
A: We increased our emphasis on remote access. In a building-down or -gone scenario, it may not be possible to get contiguous space. So the focus is more on putting up a data center and granting access to either satellite offices or even home, using standard remote access.
Q: What were other lessons learned?
A: Diversifying our carrier feedsdata carriers, Internet providers, wide area network providers and voice carriers.
Q: Who are the carriers you are using now in New York?
A: For data, we have AT&T, Yipes and Cogent. On the voice side, we have Verizon and AT&T. And we have MCI as the "local loop" provider for some of our AT&T voice circuits. We are started to implement on a limited basis, Voice over IP, so our wide area circuits can carry voice.
Q: Why is it important to have multiple providers?
A: There are a lot of different flavors of disaster and emergency events. For instance, when we had the blackout in 2003, Verizon cell phones did not work. But Blackberry cell phones did. That diversity ensures that there is some level of [service].
Q: Having gone through the experience you did, what three or four pieces of advice would you give to other CIOs preparing or updating their business continuity plan?
Q: So some lessons came out of the blackout. What did you learn from that experience?
A: What we learned involved clarifying roles. The majority of the I.T. department knew that when there is a disaster, it is all hands on deck. We are a part of the life and building safety team. With 9/11, all of the disaster recovery training typically focuses on technology but always pays lip service to the human factor. For the first 48 hours, the human factor was much more in the forefront for everybody. One of the things I did in the first 48 hours after 9/11 was to literally call up every single employee of the downtown office and the midtown office to make sure every last person was accounted for. As a member of the managerial team, we needed as many people as possible to do that.
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