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IT Scrambles To Restore Order

World Trade Center tenants use lessons from 1993 bombing, quickly switch over to backup systems.

Companies that lost facilities in the World Trade Center attack are generally back online but are still struggling to restore IT operations to full capacity.

Having experienced the 1993 tower bombing, World Trade Center tenants were better equipped than most to recover data lost in disasters, according to Morgan Stanley analyst Charles Phillips. "It was probably among the best-prepared office facilities from a systems and data recovery perspective," Phillips said in a report.

All told, the cost to replace IT systems lost in the attack will be about $500 million, Phillips estimated, virtually all of it hardware. Most tenants said they haven't thought about system plans beyond immediate needs. Perhaps the biggest vulnerability comes from the amount of data that still exists solely on paper. Companies are now stepping up efforts to scan documents so they can be backed up.

For example, Frenkel & Co., an insurance brokerage that had offices in the north tower, was struggling to reconstruct about 5 million pages of documents relating to insurance policies and claims for 15,000 clients. Frenkel is asking for copies from clients, insurance carriers and law firms, and hopes to have its records rebuilt by year's end.

All of Frenkel's accounting data and some policy information was online, and that information was saved in offsite backups a week before the attack.

"We have virtually all the services up and running," says Bob Hendrickson, vice president of Total System Integrators, which runs Frenkel's IT. Just prior to the attack, Frenkel had received management approval for an imaging system to scan in documents.

Guy Carpenter, a reinsurance intermediary and a subsidiary of Marsh McLennan, had its headquarters in the south tower and also had operations at Marsh's offices in the north tower. Carpenter lost a day's worth of paperwork, while more than 25 million imaged documents remained safe, the company says. Carpenter's imaging program had been in place since 1995.

Having a well-planned and frequently rehearsed disaster recovery procedure paid off for Kemper Insurance. The Chicago-based firm ran claims processing, underwriting, sales, legal and administrative operations in its main New York office in the north tower. All 225 employees are now safe.

Kemper's New York operations ran on six Windows NT servers, backed up nightly to Kemper's mainframesand midrange Unix systems in Chicago, says Rick Dale, vice president of IT. Servers were reconstructed by 4 pm Wednesday. According to Dale, he suspects that little data was lost, but it will take some time to determine the full impact.

Testing Pays Off

Kemper each year runs a disaster recovery test in which it simulates the loss of key systems, moves operations to backup systems and runs a full day's worth of simulated business on those backups. Kemper in the past has tested only its mainframe and midrange Unix systems at headquarters, but this year added the NT systems to the tests, which were done in June. IBM Global Services helps manage the disaster recovery planning and testing. "It's absolutely critical to have that kind of yearly test," Dale said.

Allstate Insurance Co. quickly improvised with "LAN in a box" kits to connect about 100 temporary offices in the New York area with the central data stores in Northbrook, IL, and handle claims from victims of the attacks and others. The kits include hubs, routers, wires, cables, PCs, printers and monitors—mostly IBM equipment.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in InternetWeek, a CMP Media publication. David Drucker, Ted Kemp and Rutrell Yasin contributed.

Mitch Wagner is California bureau chief for Light Reading. View Full Bio

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