Expert Talks about Facing Isabel and Data Loss

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With Hurricane Isabel roaring up the East Coast, many IT managers in its path are probablythinking about holding off system damage and data loss. Memories of last month's widespreadpower blackout and the stunning damage it cost clearly in their minds.

Whether facing a hurricane or a blackout, managing data loss is absolutely critical tokeeping a business alive. Preventing data loss is key. But responding to it once it'shappened is just as important.

Industry analysts say IT managers need to have plans and procedures in place for dealingwith disasters. They need to have well-thought-out systems of reaction and response. Failingto have a disaster recovery plan could prove fatal to the business.

The August blackout is proof of that.

An Info-Tech Research survey found that 60 percent of companies did not have plans andprocedures in place to help IT departments deal with the blackout. And 76 percent said theblackout directly affected their organization.

And once data is lost, the company's bean counters can immediately start counting thefinancial losses.

According to the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C., 93percent of companies that lost their data center for 10 days or more due to disaster filedfor bankruptcy within one year of the disaster. Fifty percent filed immediately.

Jim Reinert, director of Ontrack DataRecovery Services, based in Eden Prairy, Minn., sayshis company saw a 39 percent increase in calls the Monday following last month's blackout.Now he's turning his focus toward Hurricane Isabel and the damage the storm might cause.

Reinert talked with eSecurityPlanet about the pain data loss causes a company, howdata can be retreived and steps to take to protect your data... especially from Isabel.

Q: What kind of data loss were you seeing after the blackout?
Most of the cases we saw were electronic failures... Sometimes the power failure is quitechoppy and the surges can damage the hardware. All hardware is designed to operate at acertain voltage level. Some of those spikes can get through to the computer and fry thecircuitry.

Q: What steps do a company usually take before they turn to you?
you first turn to your backup. However there are pitfalls in backups. It's difficult andexpensive to make perfect backups. It's not uncommon for companies to have problems withtheir backups. Maybe they haven't tested them. Maybe they haven't stored the backups awayfrom their production computers. You may need mirrored sites on different power grids. Thesethings make backups complex and costly. We're a backup to your backup.

Q: By the time the problem arrives at your door, how critical is the situation?
It's a lot of pain. Any time you lose data, it's painful... It's a big deal. We findourselves in a race usually. Companies go to their last backup, even if it's a week old, andbegin rebuilding from scratch. At the same time, they send us the drive for recovery. Andit's all a race to get their data back... If it's a server system and it's down, you justmagnified that downtime by how many employees you have on that server. It's all multiplied.A single desktop goes down. That's bad. If they all go down, it's magnified. There's thecost of employees not working. But there's the cost of losing opportunities and notcapturing business.

Q: What advice would you give to IT managers who have companies sitting in the path ofIsabel?
If they can, they should elevate computers off the ground floor level. Get those desktopsand laptops scattered around the work area. And power down the computers before the stormhits.
Check your backup. Test them to make sure they're functioning properly. Make sure thebackup is up-to-date. And store the backup away from the production system... preferably getit out of the way of the storm.
If a computer is damaged with water, you should leave the system wet. Don't dry it out.The recovery process is more difficult if the sediments in the water dry on. Some companiesship us drives inside Coleman coolers to keep these things wet. When we receive it, we canopen it and dry it out in a controlled way and have better success.

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