Disaster - but did they learn?

Every company has a disaster recovery plan in place after the Auckland power blackout, right? Actually, no. In our latest Computerworld 1000 survey of 30 of the top companies in New Zealand, a third of respondents either didn't have a disaster recovery plan, had an informal, incomplete plan or didn't know whether they had one or not.

Q: What was the saddest thing about the Auckland power crisis?

A: Aucklanders couldn’t start their cappuccino machines or chill their Moet.

Every company has a disaster recovery plan in place after the Auckland power blackout, right? Actually, no.

In our latest Computerworld 1000 survey of 30 of the top companies in New Zealand, a third of respondents either didn’t have a disaster recovery plan, had an informal, incomplete plan or didn’t know whether they had one or not.

The survey asked managers if their companies were affected by the Mercury power crisis in Auckland. Eleven were not affected at all, eight were directly affected and another 11 were affected indirectly. Worryingly, of those eight directly affected, three claimed they had no disaster recovery plan (DRP) in place and were not considering implementing one. All three declined to be named in this survey.

Only nine of the 30 respondents claimed they had re-assessed their DRP as a result of Auckland’s power crisis.

Chris Hope, systems manager for legal firm Kensington Swan’s Wellington office, is one of those who has looked at his company’s DRP.

“Here in Wellington it’s earthquakes, of course,” he half jokes.

Kensington Swan is currently installing a new system and a working DRP is fundamental to that process.

“It’s part of our whole IT direction.”

Kensington Swan has moved from dumb terminals to PCs, something Hope believes will help any DRP implemented in the future.

“People will be able to work from home or another office with much more ease.”

UPSs are the most popular form of protection for IT equipment — 25 respondents used UPSs for all their devices, three had UPSs only on core equipment and only two had no protection at all. Two had taken their protection to the next level and installed their own generators.

In the future, Hope can see companies writing power supply clauses into rental contracts and generally paying more attention to details, like building generators.

“Our Auckland office had a generator but its capacity wasn’t great enough to run the whole organisation. It was a short-term generator.” Issues like that should be top of mind when reviewing a DRP, says Hope.

One company that doesn’t have a formal disaster recovery plan and believes it doesn’t need one is the TBS Group of companies. TBS describes itself as “multi-disciplined contractors” offering a range of services in the building industry.

Financial Controller Angus Cromby makes a compelling case that will be familiar to a lot of New Zealand’s small to -medium-sized enterprise businesses.

“You could spend a lot of time planning for a disaster of the magnitude of the Auckland power crisis and it might not ever happen again.” TBS doesn’t rely on its IT department for its day-to-day business.

“Our job is to get guys and equipment out the door each morning. We don’t need a computer to do that,” says Gromby.

TBS runs an RS6000 and a small network of PCs mainly for their financial and administrative functions. It has an agreement with its supplier to use another machine in the event of a disaster and makes off-site tape backups daily for such an event.

“We don’t have a formal plan but for us it’s a relatively minor matter. I read about the ASB Bank and I take my hat off to them, it was a tremendous effort on their part.”

As for the Auckland power crisis — at least we’ve learned lots of jokes that will be useful when the Big One hits Wellington.

Q: What did Aucklanders use before candles?

A: Electricity.

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