Disaster plan beats virus

Australasia's largest food manufacturer, Goodman Fielder, was forced to shut down its email server for three days after its Australian office was infected with the Bugbear virus.

While the New Zealand arm of the company wasn't infected thanks to the quick actions of its IT team, the virus forced the shutting off of its external email and web access for almost three days, according to IT manager Jason Gordon.

"We literally pulled the plug on the server. We got notification from a user here who was on to the helpdesk pretty quickly, and we shut down the mail server and got on the phone to warn everyone."

In an age of business-to-business e-commerce, closing off external access means potentially downgrading the communication with partners, suppliers and customers.

"It does impact in areas of external email with customer orders and so on. Certainly with internet access we take orders from Foodstuffs, which is one of our major clients."

Gordon and his team set up dial-up access from standalone PCs to keep business ticking along while the email system was purged, noting that a successful response comes down to having a good disaster recovery (DR) plan and a reliable team.

"The operations guys did a fantastic job. They worked a few nights to upgrade servers and so on. As much as you need a DR plan it's about the quality of your people working on it. We've got a good cohesive team and it's taken some time to get there, but it's worth it."

Gordon says while the potential for damage was great, the disaster recovery plan helped minimise disruption.

"We didn't get fully back online for two or three days, but because of the measures we took it didn't have too much impact."

Peter Egnelius, IT manager for Foodstuffs South Island, says the company makes extensive use of the internet for stock ordering.

"If we were to revert to phone ordering our buyers would be on the phone 24 hours a day to complete their orders."

Egnelius says Foodstuffs uses an online exchange and disruption can be catastrophic.

Foodstuffs does have back-up plans for any lengthy outage.

"This is something we've been building in to all our systems."

Egnelius says while Goodman Fielder's Bugbear experience highlights the problems of electronic ordering, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

"The advantage is there's very little manual intervention in any of these transactions and that helps reduce errors, especially in an industry with such a large product range and a lot of changes to those product numbers."

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