Toronto flash flood tests conferencing firm’s DR plan

A severe thunderstorm that dumped more than five inches of rain on Toronto in just two hours and caused over $850 million in damages this summer, turned out to be the perfect occasion to test out BCS Global Network’s disaster recover (DR) plan.

As highways flooded, subway and airline services halted, power outages hit the city leaving no less 300,000 people and businesses including BCS without electricity on July 8.

The company’s video network operations centre (VNOC) could only run for 30 minutes on uninterrupted power supply (UPS) backup power.

“It was early evening, our U.K-based VNOC operators had left for the day and the Hong Kong VNOC operators had not yet started,” said Roman Dobrowolsky, director of IT services for BCS. “We needed to get power fast because we have various SLAs that require 24/7 availability.”

CetriLogic's Emergency Space
CentriLogic’s Emergency Space


Customers expect flawless video conferencing communications from BCS, he said, and any disruption could be a black mark on the company’s reputation.

“Our scheduled calls absolutely need to happen, because one bad call is what people will remember,” said Dobrowolsky.

That night, it took less than half an hour for a team of 10 BCS employees to drive from the company’s west Toronto offices to the Emergency Space of hosting, data management and data centre facilities company CentriLogic Inc.

Once there, the team was able to continue working from where they had left off because the emergency office space they rented from CentriLogic contained everything they needed.

The facility had Internet access, telephony and guaranteed power. Operators were able to use the BCS corporate virtual private network connection to link back quickly to the Toronto PoP (point of presence=) which was still operating.

Within a few hours, the Hong Kong VNOC operators were online and the next morning power was restored to the BCS’s Toronto VNOC.

It’s for situations such as these that many businesses to include access to an offsite emergency office facility in their business continuity plan, according to Joe Damiani, vice-president of Capris Group, a division of CentriLogic which was acquired by the company some three months ago.

“In a disaster or emergency most businesses’ top concerns are usually, electrical power reliability, communications and Internet connectivity and data security,” said Damiani. “The priority is to be able to resume service to customers at an acceptable level to the client in the soonest time possible.”

CentriLogic maintains managed service, co-location and data centre facilities in Toronto and Mississauga in Ontario; Rochester and Buffalo in New York; and in Bracknell, U.K.

The facilities provide, desks and seats, phone systems, redundant wired and wireless communications , UPS, access security arrangements, and a “network designed for five nines up time standards,” said Damiani.

Depending on the arrangements specified by CentriLogic’s customer, the emergency office can be a fully dedicated or a shared space with another business. CentriLogic can provide computers or the client can bring their own IT assets.

The facilities have backup diesel generators and CenrtiLogic has arrangements with several fuel distributors in each location to secure fuel source.

Some spaces could cover 500 square feet or larger depending on the customer’s needs. It’s typical for businesses to specify space and equipment for 10 to 15 per cent of their staff.


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Nestor E. Arellano
Nestor E. Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

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