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Issue of December 2005 
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Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity

Tales from 26/7

The CIO club of the Computer Society of India’s Mumbai chapter held a discussion on the lessons learnt from the devastating rain and flooding that crippled Mumbai this July. Here is what some said.

Shailaja Adhurti / CITOS, Mumbai

We are a manpower-intensive organisation. There are a total of four sites, but three of these were isolated. One site was functional and we had to work out of this single site. The staff was stretched beyond two shifts and there was a lot of backlog due to this.

The qualities that helped CITOS through the time of crises were the governance structure, crises management team and a business continuity team that focusses on recovery and well-laid-down guidelines from the Office of Business Continuity and Best Practices. We also focus on training and awareness. It was our processes that helped us out in handling the situation.

In my opinion, some of the major issues to be managed are availability of manpower, connectivity and communication. When it comes to accountability, many a time we consider a single point of failure. However, this is not the reality. During a disaster we have to focus on command centres and communications and not just a central point or backbone.

In many cases, testing is never done end-to-end during a simulation. This is why it is important that more stringent testing be done. Other management issues to be addressed for disaster preparedness are establishment of command centres, improvement of people training, and ease of the switchover.

S R Bala / Advisor, BFIS

In banks, low priority is accorded to IT at a branch. For example, the battery panel and the UPS are kept in the basement, or the generator is kept below the waterline. The generator and UPS capacities are often overlooked.

These branches also require support. People running the business should be responsible for the same. Disaster can come at any time and you should be prepared at all levels.

Kishore Oka / Head, Finance Vertical, Reliance Infocomm

Continuity of business is not only for technology. Each entity has to be involved in Business Continuity Planning. It is essential that we consider the way a business runs before the disaster as well as after overcoming the disaster.

Business Continuity Planning has to be done by all entities. Planning for this has to be based on business impact analysis. Next is the business impact due to various things such as the business impact on account of floods, etc.

Consider the cost effectiveness. Do not spend just because it is a fad. Is the DR spend a me-too approach?

Testing has to be done rigorously every year. When disaster strikes, then invoke the Business Continuity Plan. Consider whether Continuity of Business (COB) is to be invoked at all. Is it a real disaster? There should be procedures to terminate the COB.

Media and employee communications are also to be considered to ensure that panic does not set in.

Consider the outage duration. Do a cost-benefit analysis. Consider the financial and regulatory implications, avoid doing anything illegal that may have repercussions later on.

Himanshu Kothari / IL&FS

Consider the office building and not just the data. Scan all your legal documents since survival depends on it. This can be done by document record keeping management and having multiple documentation sites.

S B Patankar / Director, IS, The Stock Exchange, Mumbai

Many things were done earlier, but this disaster gave us the direction that we needed to take. Earlier, budget approvals were problematic, but post-tsunami budget approvals are easier since expenses are not being questioned.

BS 7799 is in use to identify lacunae and shortcomings. We have also allocated a finite time to close the shortcomings.

Infrastructure by itself is not sufficient. Companies need to have a BCP to take care of the business.

There were many gaps in the plan, there were many things that we were not ready for, and had not planned for. For example, we just came up with a tsunami plan, but the basement filled up. New disasters? Have we looked at those?

While there is a need to be systematic, there are no replacements for the innovative mind and for people who are at the site to make sure that things work. We should have a sense of responsibility. We as Indians should demonstrate to the world that we can give the best service even in a disaster. This kind of commitment should be there at the highest level of management.

A M Pedgaonkar / CGM, RBI

In our case we first identified critical locations. For this, you should know the history of the place. The Bandra Kurla Complex (in Mumbai) had experienced flooding earlier.

We could not bring the RTGS system down as it is an all-India system which is closed on only two days—August 15 and January 26. Clearances proceeded as usual on the days post-July 26. People were held back at the office, but food and accommodation were provided for.

People had to work for 72 hours as the next shift relievers could not come in. We successfully carried out operations.

Pravir Vohra / SGM and Head, Technology Management & Retail Technology Group, ICICI Bank

The corporate office at BKC (Bandra Kurla Complex, in Mumbai) was marooned, but we had done a fair bit of DR planning.

There are about 200 applications that are running. We were lucky in a way that we did not have a major disaster. The data centre was also up and running, and telecom links were functioning. Some branches were under water; they moved to a mobile ATM, which was not in the DR plan.

Nothing in the DR plan actually worked. We did not need to invoke the DR plan since many things were not covered in it. All the contingencies that hit us were not covered.

The post-disaster analysis revealed that we came through it without any major problem. We were not ordinarily prepared for this kind of disaster.

Any planning needs to make some assumptions. Think on your feet and be an ad hoc manager. There is a great need for planning and testing, but at the same time you need to realise that you cannot be fully prepared for every disaster.

Ours is a 24x7 operation. People were not able to communicate. Improvisation was the answer—report to your nearest branch.

Dynamic real-time disaster management happened. Alternative sources of lines had to be made available by re-routing through Hyderabad.

C Kajwadkar / Vice-president, NSE.IT

Diesel gensets and diesel tanks should not be kept on the top floor. Batteries also tend to get neglected.

Terrestrial leads terminate in the basement, so ensure route and media redundancy for the terrestrial network as well as for the VSAT link.

Are vital documents neglected? People could not go home for 24 hours. Canteen supplies were enhanced.

 
     
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