[Editor's note: OpenMPE chairman Birket Foster offered us this Open Mike column this morning, based on his reflections while in flight yesterday, Sept. 11. Open Mike, and this newsblog, are forums for the 3000 community.]
By Birket Foster
Yesterday marked the five-year mark since the 9/11 event in 2001. A lot has changed since that year. I thought it ironic that my flight was at 9:11 yesterday morning – the airport was busy, almost back to normal (noticeably absent were liquids and gels). The PA system was used to call for a moment of silence – and that was certainly different. All pages and flight announcements stopped for a moment as the concourse quieted. People primed by CNN and the perhaps their radio in the car or taxi on the way to the airport, all reminded of the changed world we live in.
The in-flight movie was Poseidon, a re-made movie about people who took a risk to escape a disaster. I am not sure I like the idea of a disaster movie on a plane, but it inspired me to write this piece.
I was thinking about parallels with the HP 3000 market, and how disastrous the changes have been for many since the announcement in November 2001. There are many members of the community, both customers and suppliers, who have moved on. Some have tried a couple of times to escape from the platform — only to discover there were pieces missing in the intended solution, or that the solution was too expensive or complex to implement.
At MBFoster we have been helping customers to build both sustainability plans and as well as migration plans. Sustainability plans are important even for those that are migrating. An organization will typically need 18 to 36 months to execute the transition plan, and some will need to keep the original application available for history, audit or compliance purposes for some time after the new application is successfully running. Skipping this process “because we are going to migrate” is a recipe for disaster.
Sustainability planning should be thought through on a business basis – what will it cost to have your application down? Is there a worst time or a better time – typically there is a range of costs and impacts – depending on the time when the disaster strikes. There should be two measures in your business continuity plan – the steps you have taken to mitigate the risk of a failure, and the steps and mean time to recovery. These plans are sometimes known as resilience and recovery plans.
There are steps that can be taken to reduce the chance of a failure. Look at your disk drives – today a set of RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disk) drives will go a long way to guard against a failure. If you have got RAID drives then you should think of replacing them every three to five years.
- If you have spare parts like disk controllers and drives, who on your team or in your supplier team is capable of replacing the parts?
- How would they know which part to replace?
- Do you own the spares or does a vendor have them for you?
- What is the time to get them on site?
Ordering the parts off eBay is probably not a safe strategy, unless you can wait for the auction to finish.
There are questions aplenty to consider about disasters and your plans. Does your plan look at the cost of the outage? Does your senior management team understand the risks and measures that IT has taken on behalf of the organization? Do you have the list of prioritized tasks that it will take to keep your business running? Will you be able to serve the customers manually? Can you still ship to or service your customers? What is the impact and how will it be handled? Who declares the disaster?
Does your organization have business continuity insurance against various forms of business interruption? There may be compliance issues associated with having a written and up to date plan.
In 1998 MBFoster survived 16 days with no power at our offices. We had a generator running within 48 hours capable of running the whole building. But all of our planning had been for short outages. Our cell phone list was out of date and we had to build both the communications plan and the revised daily operating procedures to allow the shutdown of power to the building at 7AM and 7PM to check the generator. We diverted phones and faxes to our other offices while we acquired the generator. It was interesting and taught us a lot.
Now is a good time to check your business continuity plan to be sure it is up to date and you have included all the different applications and functions in your plan. E-mail, FTP and other communications methods need to be considered if you use them with customers or supplier partners. It turns out that this review will help today and when you begin your transition. Each interface both inbound and outbound from your systems needs to be documented, so that when you transition you can be sure that this functionality or surround code won’t be overlooked.
Whether you are homesteading or transitioning your applications, building a business continuity plan makes sense. Ask your accountant or insurance company for a checklist and adapt it to your needs. If we at MBFoster can help, or you have any questions or comments on this article, feel free to send me a note at [email protected] or at 800-ANSWERS (that’s 800-267-9377) extension 204.
I hope you had a great day.
Birket Foster is the Chairman & CEO of M. B. Foster – a software
company offering cross-platform data access and delivery solutions in
the HP 3000, HP 9000, Unix/Linux and Windows markets. He travels a lot
and hopes that he has made a difference for many of the NewsWire
readers over the years. He invites readers to drop The 3000 NewsWire a note, or a story about that occasion.