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Katrina Spurs Companies To Initiate IT Backup Plans

Some 18 companies are using SunGard's Availability Services and more than 120 customers have put the company on notice that they might have to use SunGard facilities to relocate employees, call centers, and computers.

As Hurricane Katrina cuts a wide swath of destruction through parts of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, many businesses have been forced to activate emergency backup plans due to flooding, power outages, and other adverse conditions. Not surprisingly, SunGard Data Systems Inc. has seen a sharp increase in the demand for its availability services as businesses affected by the storm cut over to the company's various backup and recovery sites.

Since Aug. 25, when Katrina was gearing up for its assault on Florida, more than 120 SunGard Availability Services customers have put the company on notice that they might have to use SunGard facilities. So far, 18 companies have actually invoked the services, with some relocating to SunGard locations in Las Colinas and Grand Prairie, Texas; Smyrna, Ga.; Carlstadt, N.J.; Scottsdale, Ariz., Wood Dale, Ill.; and Philadelphia. Others have called for SunGard to send out mobile data-center trucks or to ship equipment to their own backup locations. SunGard expects there could be another 10 disaster declarations from its customers in the region over the next few days.

The intensity of the storm also is likely to keep clients at SunGard or other backup facilities longer than most emergencies, says Bob DiLossi, manager of SunGard Availability Services' crisis management center in Philadelphia. Some companies are talking about staying for two or three weeks, more than double the average time that companies generally operate remotely during an emergency. In addition to servers and other data-center infrastructure equipment, SunGard clients are calling for workspace for their employees who need connectivity to the Web and to telephone lines. SunGard already has welcomed 125 displaced desktop users to its Texas, Georgia, and Pennsylvania facilities, and another 125 spots will be added by the end of Tuesday, primarily to do call-center work.

Despite Katrina's driving rainstorms and blustery winds, reportedly reaching speeds of more than 145 mph, it has yet to match past storms and other problems when it comes to disaster-recovery services. Last year Hurricane Ivan prompted 22 SunGard clients to declare an emergency and make use of the company's services. The 2003 power outage affected 66 clients, although DiLossi points out that the blackout was more of a technology emergency than Katrina, which has taken a terrible toll in human lives and damaged property. During Sept. 11, 2001, SunGard received emergency declarations from 121 clients.

Preparation is a key factor for businesses to successfully weather such emergencies. Ten of SunGard's clients began sending key IT people to the company's Philadelphia, Las Colinas, and Grand Prairie locations last week, DiLossi says, adding, "That was good planning on their part."

Meanwhile, the calls continue to come into SunGard for additional disaster-recovery and managed services. Although DiLossi won't mention specific companies by name, he says one client was up to his knees in water at his data center. Luckily, that client's backup tapes are safely tucked away at a SunGard facility because it's doubtful any of the equipment that's been soaking in the flood will be useful after the waters subside.

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