IT exec eyes stormy weather

While bracing his IT systems to weather another hurricane season, Max Prather can’t help but recall just how swiftly undetected weak points in his IT disaster recovery plan were cracked by Hurricane Katrina.

“We thought we were prepared but did not count on a complete disaster. It may have well been a nuclear bomb; that’s how much it affected our business,” said Prather, IT manager at the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency in Metairie, La.

The nonprofit organization’s offices sit less than eight miles west of New Orleans. Prior to Katrina, the agency’s disaster plan focused on having some patient and employee data hosted on NeoSpire Inc. servers in Dallas. However, when Katrina hit, employees scattered and the agency lost power, phone service and Internet access, exposing gaping holes in its electronic communications strategy, said Prather.

After the storm, the agency deployed a disaster recovery system from Austin-based Neverfail Inc. to ensure uninterrupted employee connectivity throughout service shutdowns. The organization has also added an internal backup generator and fail-over phone system, implemented daily backup procedures, and constructed a hot site and duplicate server environment in its Shreveport, La., facility. The agency continues to use the hosted servers in Dallas.

“I would hate to see any company go through [such] a disaster to see exactly what’s wrong with its plan,” Prather said. 077337