A burning need for preparedness

For some companies, “data protection” means backing up files to guard against disk corruption. For Tolko Industries Ltd., “data protection” means hoisting servers into a truck while a forest fire licks your heels.

On an early August night Tolko’s IT staffers were doing just that, trying to save precious information from the flames that would decimate the company’s sawmill in Louis Creek, B.C.

“It’s had a huge impact,” said Sheila Catlin, Tolko’s spokesperson, referring to the sawmill’s demise. “It’s put about 200 people out of work.”

While Ontarians were left in the dark for a few hours after a blackout last month, people in British Columbia faced prodigious fires. According to the B.C. Ministry of Forests Web site, 818 fires burned in late August, creating a disaster that would test the mettle of any data protection plan.

Catlin said the Tolko crew was prepared. Employees at this Vernon-based forestry products firm had already disconnected the computer equipment at the Louis Creek sawmill the day before the evacuation order came.

“Once they got the evacuation order, they just took the servers out in the back of a pick-up….They had two (servers) up there.”

Tolko took protection matters beyond the status quo.

“We do daily backups, so we could have restored anyway,” Catlin said. But given a choice between leaving the hardware to melt and taking it out of the fire’s path, “it was just easier this way.”