BPC and the Megaton Deluge

Fire. 9/11 changed New York and the world. People and companies died. It
brought new meaning to Disaster Recovery and Business Process Continuity.

Earth. The Sumatra-Andaman ‘quake of December 26, 2004, shook our planet.
And brought back oft-forgotten DR issues: routing of undersea cables, siting of
data centers.

Water. The tsunami from that quake killed 300,000 people. And it brought up
its own issues for Indian tech, including DR hot sites in port cities like
Chennai.



And more water. India’s financial capital collapsed on July 26, 2005, under
a million tonnes of water per square kilometer. The downpour of the century
submerged Mumbai’s houses and buses.

The city failed its DR test. Mumbai came to a halt as its drainage failed,
then power. Trains stopped. Colonies drowned. People were stranded for 36 hours
in their offices. Others lost their homes-or their lives.

For Mumbai, July 26 posed a BPC challenge rivaling 9/11. The NSE and other
Bandra-Kurla buildings became islands filled with marooned staff, amidst a sea
of rainwater. They ran out of food, water, diesel, electricity. Others stayed on
the roof of a submerged bus for 15 hours before being rescued.

Power, and people, were the top two causes of downtime. Our office near Saki
Naka had no power for a week. South Mumbai offices (from the ToI to Bombay
House) saw no power cuts-but their staff could not reach office.

Not all failed the DR tests. The city did evacuate 200,000 people. And
financial institutions, telcos and SPs, did well, even with server farms and
comms links hit. ATMs networks went down for SBI nationwide; local ATMs went
down for most others. Connectivity took a hit elsewhere too. In NCR Gurgaon, our
(CyberMedia) headquarters was off the Web for three days, as our ISP lost its
Mumbai link.

BPO companies relied on their dual-site strategy. But after all the tech,
what you need is the people. WNS set up a crisis command center, supply lines
for staff and a helpdesk for families, and support programs for those badly hit.
Reliance Infocomm drew on its integrated campus to minimize downtime, and senior
management stayed on site for days without going home.

That was a week with many lessons. 9/11 won’t happen here. It did. A remote
hot site is overkill, what can bring a city down? Rain. We bought DR stuff last
year. BPC is about people first, and then the tech. We’re a BPO with hot
sites, so we’re cool. Try selling that. Chennai gets Tsunamis. Mumbai gets
floods. Delhi gets nuked. Never mind the reality. You fight perceptions, and TV.

If only for our tech future, let’s hope that Mumbai copes better on its
next BPC trial by fire. Or, worse, by water.

Prasanto K Roy

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