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The Party is Over: IT Departments Prepare for Hurricane Season

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Now that the Mardis Gras parades are finished, and all celebrators are over their hangovers, one date is collectively coming to mind. June 1, 2006. This is the first official day of the 2006 hurricane season, and IT departments across the United State's Gulf Coast are scrambling to prepare their systems.

CIO's are trying to add more resilient data back-up capabilties, power production, advanced routing, and alternate data connections such as wireless or satellite links. One strategy has now been to send data back-ups to remote sites over the internet in addition to their existing tape back-ups.


Jim Burgard of University of New Orleans explained that his staff was unable to retrieve their back-up tapes located in an office building in downtown New Orleans until three weeks after Hurricane Katrina. They now have a mirror site at Lousiana State University in Baton Rouge to avoid problems with data back-ups. Burgard also is having his staff install additional Uninterruptable Power Supplies and a natural gas generator at the university's campus in New Orleans.


Hurricane Katrina not only showed IT departments what additions that needed to be made, but also what parts of their system needed to be modified. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana experienced an unexpected network outage after the storm because their routing scheme was all routed through a single site in New Orleans that failed.


Other critical companies are investing in alternate communication connections like satellites. Keesler Federal Credit Union in Biloxi, MS is one. After the storm knocked out all commercial communications across the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the credit union decided to add satellite capabilities to all of it's branch locations, giving them the capability of getting back to business even if all other communications were destroyed. At the same time, the company is investing in a data and voice converged network that will replace their aging Cisco data network and PBX phone systems.


All across the Gulf Coast, IT departments are facing staffing shortages that is making the challenge of these important upgrades all that more difficult. Some IT staffs are at less than half their pre-Hurricane Katrina level, and the prospects for additional employees is dismal. In a recent advertisment for a senior level position at the University of New Orleans only 4 applications were received when normally at least 20 are received.


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