The importance of redundant and diverse information technology systems was stressed by Craig Lowenthal, first vice president and chief information officer, Hartford Financial Products (New York), who shared his company's September 11 disaster recovery experiences as part of a panel that discussed "New Realities and Challenges in Financial Services" at this week's Financial Technology Expo & Conference in New York.
Hartford Financial Products, a unit of The Hartford, was headquartered on the 20th floor of 7 World Trade Center. That building collapsed the afternoon of the 11th, following the earlier collapse of 1 and 2 World Trade Center.
Fortunately, according to Lowenthal, the company operates a hot site in Boston, which meant that critical systems, LAN tapes, Microsoft Outlook folders, and other similar essential records were not lost, despite the complete destruction of the headquarters facility. Also, staffers "grabbed back-up tapes on the way out of the building," Lowenthal recalled.
"There was no thought of technology on the first day of the disaster," Lowenthal told the audience at FTCE, which is co-sponsored by Insurance & Technology, Wall Street & Technology and Bank Systems & Technology. He who noted his immediate concerns following the attack were whether or not to evacuate the building and have employees risk being hit by falling debris and shrapnelnot to mention the safety and well-being of the firm's employees. "The biggest challenges were the next day." The day following the disaster "we were on the phone with parent company The Hartford in Connecticut to plan what to do." Data lines and phones needed to be replaced, and paper files also needed to be recreated.
On the day after the disaster, 90 PCs were delivered to a temporary location set up in Hauppauge, NY, on Long Island. "I am a big proponent of shared services for infrastructure and shared things like equipment," noted Lowenthal, referring to equipment the company earlier bought in bulk at a discount and stored in a warehouse for future use. Also, the company was able to outsource its fax numbers to Easylink fax services.
By the Friday following the attack, Hartford Financial Products had access to 120 laptops. And, with the help of a vendor, Hartford Financial obtained 200 cell phones. By the Monday following the disaster furniture and cubicles were obtained. "It was an amazing picture to see everyone working hand in hand," Lowenthal acknowledged.
Later this week Hartford Financial Products will move into its newpermanent2 Park Avenue location in midtown Manhattan. Reflecting some of the new realities of doing business post-Sept. 11, the office will be equipped with videoconferencing equipment. Also, Lowenthal reported, employees who previously relied entirely on paper files and records are now beginning to embrace ways of electronically storing data. Lowenthal added he is looking at imaging as an alternative to filing. Going forward, he will focus on "lots of redundancy with data centers and more frequent offsite storage with backup tapes."