10 May 2004

In Case of Emergency

In Case of Emergency:

New technology, and new threats, have businesses reexamining how they cope with disaster.

John Goff
CFO Magazine

By almost any yardstick, Prairie State Bank is not what you'd call a major financial institution. With a handful of branches scattered in south-central Kansas, the bank maintains a small retail business in the GWMA (Greater Wichita Metropolitan Area). How small is small? On its corporate Website, the company's management proudly proclaims that Prairie State 'is the 24th largest bank in the state of Kansas.'

Still, the concerns of the top executives at tiny Prairie State are probably not unlike those of high-powered bankers who run global banking giants. High on that list: how to keep computer systems up and running in case of an emergency. While it's not especially likely that terrorists will strike Augusta, Kansas (site of the bank's home office), the Sunflower State does get its fair share of tornadoes. And in 1999, an overflowing Whitewater River swelled clear up to the steps of the main office. 'We had to sandbag the front doors,' recalls Chip DuFriend, network administrator at the bank.

Until recently, Prairie State backed up its 16 servers to individual, onsite tape drives. But last year, the bank's Microsoft Exchange server went down and DuFriend was unable to restore the system with a tape backup. Unsettled by the experience, management at Prairie State decided to try something different, eventually signing up for a subscription service provided by StorServer Inc., in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The service enables the bank to store the data from its servers on one server at an offsite location. DuFriend says he can go online and easily recover lost or deleted data files — a revelation for managers used to working straight from tape backups. Says DuFriend: 'This system is a paradigm shift for us.'

Paradigm shift aptly describes what's going on in the world of disaster recovery these days. Spurred on initially by Y2K and, more recently, 9/11 and the great blackout of 2003, corporate executives are focusing on data protection like never before. According to Stamford, Connecticut-based research firm Meta Group Inc., companies spent just 3.2 percent of their IT budgets on security (employee education, business continuity, and disaster recovery) in 2001. Last year, the outlay was more like 8.2 percent — a dramatic increase."

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