BC/DR Challenges in a Hurricane Zone
Some business continuity demands are universal, but others vary depending on where you are. In the first part in an ongoing series, we take a look at what's at stake and what's in place for two companies faced with the worsening threats posed by hurricane zones
By Joan Goodchild , Senior Editor
December 01, 2008 — CSO —
The corporate headquarters building for OSI Restaurant Partners is a mere 800 feet from the end of runway at Tampa International Airport. But according to OSI Chief Information Officer Dusty Williams, that's the least of their concerns.
OSI, the company that owns popular restaurant-chain brands such as Outback Steakhouse, Roy's and Carraba's Italian Grill, is smack dab in the eye of the storm zone, in hurricane country. Their 750-person operation in Tampa includes all back office functions, including the financial, legal and real estate divisions. If a hurricane strikes and the building is impacted, the amount of sensitive data that is at stake is immeasurable.
"We're in an A zone as far as flooding is concerned. You don't really want your data center here."
The 2008 Atlantic hurricane season produced a record number of consecutive storms, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The season saw a total of 16 named storms. With water temperatures rising due to climate change, many meteorological experts predict even tougher seasons to come. For companies in a hurricane zone, business continuity and disaster recovery preps need to be in place now, and not when the storm clouds begin churning.
It is that kind of thinking that inspired Williams to find a new home for the data center. In 2003, the main data center in headquarters had no back up power and a business continuity/disaster recovery plan was a vague notion. Williams got initial approval to move OSI's data center to an off-site facility hosted by backup and storage service provider Qwest.
"Typically when we talk BC/DR, it's always around hurricanes. The plan was to move the data center locally to a Qwest facility," said Williams. "The building itself is a category 3 or 4 that is built to sustain hurricane damage and has back up and battery power that we don't have in the headquarters facility."
Within months, the plan was put to the test. Florida experienced a severe hurricane season in 2004. Williams said Hurricane Charley illuminated the fact that they had made the right decision to move data off-site.
"On a Thursday night at 5 o'clock, officials told us they would be shutting power down to the grid we are on. So, if we had not outsourced the data center, we would have been dead in the water. "
Williams said the entire summer of '04 was spent preparing for hurricanes. At least four blew through the area of varying intensity. While no major damage was sustained, when the season was over, it became clear that the BC/DR plan needed to include more than just one off-site data facility. OSI now has a second cyber center in Chicago that includes all critical systems. The company has more than 1200 restaurants around the country. The Chicago center would allow OSI and its restaurants to have operations back up and running within a few hours if the Florida off-site facility went down, according to Williams' estimate.