OPEN CALL: Surviving Hurricane Katrina
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Updated: 11 Oct 2005
Help for Disaster Recovery
FYI: Here's an experienced administrator who specializes in disaster recovery, in case you need to engage some outside help.
Our heart-felt sympathy goes out to all of you affected by Hurricane Katrina. As with other disasters of this magnitude, it's probably worse than anyone can imagine, particularly if you are responsible for the networks of the many businesses and organizations in the hurricane's path.
As you commence your Disaster Recovery process, restoring from your backups, getting the data center free from mud, etc., we invite you to take pictures and keep notes. When you have a chance, email them to us so we can cheer you on from the sidelines. We'll give you 100 Novell Rewards Points for everything we publish. If you want to send us more than one report as you work through your recovery processes, we'll pay 100 Points per published report.
We'd love to know how well you fared. Did your planning pay off? Were there things you wish you had done differently, or more of? What were the big gotchas you couldn't have anticipated?
We'll keep a log of your experiences here at Cool Solutions. Every time we run a series like this, it is a great reminder for everyone that disasters can happen anywhere, anytime. And being prepared for the worst, especially when it comes to backup practices, can literally save a business in times like these.
Best of luck. Hope to hear from you soon.
The internet is being put to good use in the aftermath of Katrina, with email working much better than phone service here, and with sites like www.hurricanehousing.org, showing all the people willing to open their homes to evacuees. A local surveying company (Lafayette, LA) has set up a web site with an interactive map of New Orleans to show the approximate depth of flooding in different areas of the city to those who are concerned or curious.
Maybe not a survival story, but thought that you might be interested...
Early this year, a grassroots citizen's group was formed, Lafayette Coming Together (LCT) to help garner a "YES" vote for an election that would allow our local municipal utility company to offer fiber on every street of our city and deploy affordable broadband to every citizen and business who wanted it. Despite opposition from the incumbent telecoms, we were able to pass the referendum 62% - 38% in a resounding victory.
After the election, we turned our efforts to the Digital Divide in our community, as several members of LCT had already been on a blue-ribbon commission to develop strategies for the DD. We collected about 200 computers so far, with leads for another 3000.
Anyway, our city (Lafayette LA), which is located about 100 miles west of New Orleans, is using the Cajundome to house many of those who evacuated N.O. But many of these people have no contact with the outside world. Lafayette Coming Together set up an "internet room" with about 14 of our DD computers with some open source solutions to allow webmail, IM, broadband internet access so that people could contact loved ones, check email, learn more about what is going on in the outside world. We are staffing the room with tech support and letting people in for 20 minute blocks at a time. We are finishing an installation of a VOIP system this evening and we think it will be in place to provide free phone calls to any location in the States by tomorrow. People are very grateful...and their stories are amazing.
This is not a survival story, but a reaction story. We are a utility contractor. We are sending a total of 15 construction crews into Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to assist in restoring voice and power utilities. The crews that will be heading into the New Orleans area will need items that most IT folks do not think to add. Items such as fifth-wheel trailers for living space, chemical toilets, and haz-mat clothing.
Our IT group is also scrambling for items we did not list on our Disaster Recovery plan for them to use. These would be items such as: satellite phones (cell towers and land lines are down), fuel trailers for gasoline generators, GPS receivers, power inverters (so they can charge the equipment from their trucks), mobile solar power generators (for street warning signs, living trailers, cooking and computer "base camp").
We tend to write our Disaster Recovery plans for a localized disaster such as fire. But a major disaster such as this, which has shut down basic services, has greater implications as to recovery.
Of the 175 offices that we have in the State of Louisiana, 52 are in the New Orleans area. To our knowledge we have only completely lost three, two in St. Bernard parish and one in St. Tammany. The remaining offices are on 2nd or higher floors and or are just inaccessible at this time. The office in St. Tammany had a 5-foot water line inside the building when we got to it. The server, which was in a rack, had a film of mud across and grass on it (should have captured a photo). We did have one office in Jefferson Parish where the roof was blown off the building but the server room was high and dry.
For those sites that we can get to, that do not have power and communications, the servers are being relocated to Baton Rouge so that displaced workers can access their files and retrieve email.
On Tuesday, the day after the storm, when we realized that it might be several days/weeks before they came online, our DS group forcefully removed all New Orleans replicas from partitions that they were members of in order to keep the rest of the tree in good health. As servers come online, the local replica is added back to the partition and because the time stamp is so old as compared to the rest of the replicas in the partition, it receives all updates.
In regards to GroupWise, we had one Domain server that serviced all the New Orleans POAs that are housed on the individual field offices. In Baton Rouge we created a new New Orleans Domain server with a database rebuilt from the primary, changed a DNS name and within minutes those offices that have come online were able to route messages.
And when all efforts have been exhausted and offices are ready to reopen, I still have a full offsite backup of each office in the area from Friday night before the storm.
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