Disaster Recovery at Westinghouse Light Corporation

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Abstract

Organizations leverage information technology so as to effectively and rapidly process information. An IT disaster recovery is paramount for any organization and it ought to be developed in conjunction with the business continuity plan. The document helps to set the priorities as well as the recovery time objectives for the information technology after conducting the business impact analysis (Berke, Kartez & Wenger, 1993). It also aims at developing the technology recovery strategies for the purpose of restoring the hardware, applications as well as the data in time so as to meet the needs of the disaster recovery. Enterprise, both small and large has to have in place a  disaster recovery plan that ensures that they can effectively address any disaster whether it is manmade or natural, and that helps them to operate with certainty. Having a reliable backup is a very good ingredient to quick and easy recovery, but that is the area that Westinghouse Light Corporation failed. The paper entails the discussion of the disaster recovery at Westinghouse Light Corporation, its response and the lessons learned from the same.

Executive Summary

With the threat of hurricanes that are prevalent at the Coast-based companies, there is a need for these companies to revamp their procedures for disaster recovery and make sure that these plans are thoroughly tested for reliability purposes.  Unfortunately, many of these companies wait until the last minute for them to revamp their plans, and this often results in missing out critical elements as was the case for Westinghouse Light Corporation. There are essentials pieces of elements that have to be in place for the purpose of ensuring that there if an effective as well as an affordable data recovery or business continuity plan, and these elements may include communications, data, testing, the recovery time and recovery point objectives. Westinghouse failed to have in place a reliable backup, and that resulted in the loss that was experienced. Preparing in good time on how to manage disasters when they occur is vital for the organization.

Disaster at Westinghouse Light Corporation

The disaster recovery is the process used by organizations to have recovery the recovery of access to their hardware, software, data, applications so that they can resume the performance of critical business functions after their disruption through a natural or manmade disaster. When the disaster was approaching, Westinghouse had not yet been adequately prepared to handle the disaster and for that reason, they risked being stroke by the Sandy hurricane in case it occurred. The IT staff then had to do an extra task of trying to make things work at the eleventh hour, something they would have avoided had they an effective and up to date disaster recovery plan in place.  The Sandy was an eye-opener for the company because, through the same, they came to a realization that they had to do something with their data backup system that consisted of tapes.

While the tape backups are reliable, power-saving, have ease of storage and are easy to store, they have substantial disadvantages that make them ineffective in this era. Even though they were touted in the past as being the most economical per a gigabyte of data, tape media are now the most expensive backup media as compared to the hard drives of other backups such as the network backup (Chervenak, Vellanki & Kurmas, 1998).  There is also the issue of tape degradation because magnetic media can easily undergo degradation because of heat, humidity, mishandling, ordinary wear, dust, and electromagnetic forces.  They also have the disadvantage of the uncertainty of data integrity. Full verification is what can help to address this issue, but it takes a long time, and when that is not done there is no one a company can be sure that their backup is reliable.

The tape drives are also cumbersome in the case of non-full restores. That is because the tapes are sequential-access devices that are only appropriate for full-system restores. It is hard to find and restore individual documents because locating these documents takes unnecessarily long time and it is a slow process. The other problems of using the backup tape media are that they are not secure. Most of the tape backups take place at night as the machine is left unattended and the previous tape is someone else’s house (Chervenak, Vellanki & Kurmas, 1998). The issue of leaving the machine unattended and there is also a security concern when the tape is in transit. These tapes are what Westinghouse relied on, and that is why they had to be frustrated based on the issues related to these drives. Had Zetta not come to their rescue, they would have lost much time and resources, but the other company helped them to update their backups to a network backup away from the organization’s premises.

Impact of the Disaster

Due to the ill preparations by the Westinghouse Light Corporation, the company incurred much loss. First, the company relied on tape backups, and it the technical support was not responsive enough to effectively address issues when they arose. Having a reliable backup media and the technical support for the backup software is one of the ingredients that can help to ensure there is successful data recovery (Fallara, 2003). There was a high impact resulting from the disaster strike in the organization due to the slow restore of the data and also the difficult in managing the restoration based on the fact that there was little input from the technical team of the company in question. Disasters cannot be prevented from striking any organization, but how well you respond to the same determines how impactful the given disaster can be to the organization.

The first impact due to the failure of Westinghouse Light Corporation to adequately prepare for the Sandy hurricane was the loss of time. The very first step in ensuring fruitful disaster recovery is setting down the amount of time within which the recovery can take place (Smith & Wenger, 2007). The longer the time spent in the recovery, the longer the period in which the business remains dysfunctional and thus the loss of revenue. The clients might have been discouraged and left when they would not access for instance the company website to carry out transactions with the same. The disgruntled clients might shave left the company and turned to its business rivals for the services they needed.

The other impact was also the expenditure. There must have been much spending for the IT team that was taking part in the recovery process of the data from the tapes. Also, the much time that was spent in the recovery process meant that the expenditure would continue increasing.  From the case study, it is also stated that many resources were used in the processing of data recovery and these resources must have consumed a lot of money. The loss of access to the company also and the loss of data itself must have resulted in the loss of the company’s image. Because of that, the company might have made people lose interest in joining it and becoming its clients. Even the business partners can detach themselves from the company when they realize that it is not well prepared to safeguard its investments.

Failure of the Company in Data Recovery

The company experienced some failure in the recovery of their data that was in storage for the tape drives. That is because these tapes on which they relied were slow and unreliable. There were many errors introduced by these tape drives and adding insult to injury; the technical support lacked in the recovery process.  The things that resulted in the failure of the recovery of the data were the lack of an effective and an up to date disaster recovery plan. A disaster recovery plan, also known as the business continuity plan is vital in running any enterprise that takes its business as well as the clients seriously.  Due to the looming of so many potential disasters and their prevalence and sudden strike minus warnings, it is unwise to fail to take any actions meant to prepare an organization to prevent the devastating effect of such catastrophes (Berke, Kartez & Wenger, 1993).

It is the disaster recovery plan that sets out the strategy for recovering the data from the data backup media. The disaster recovery also defines the media that is to be used for backing up the data to make sure that there is quick and cost effective recovery of the same. The company had not trained even its employees on how they can help in recovering from any disaster due to the lack of the DR plan. The employees are informed and rehearsed the actions they should make sure that they immediately begin the recovery process as they also ensure business continuity in the event of a disaster (Chervenak, Vellanki & Kurmas, 1998). Without the preparation, any sudden event can lead to severe disruption of the operations, the effectiveness and the continuity of the business as seen in the case study involving Westinghouse.

Conclusion

Disabling events come into organizations in all shapes and varieties, and the lack of preparation of these organizations can mean that they are going to waste many resources and time in the process.  The lack of preparation of the Westinghouse Light Corporation resulted in much loss that they experienced due to their ill preparations for handling catastrophes such as the Sandy hurricane.  The case study shows that the company relied on the tape drives to back up their data and when the disaster stroke their premises, it was very difficult to restore the data, and there were very many errors introduced by these tapes. Also, the lack of proper input from the technical team watered down the recovery process from the aftermaths of the hurricane. The employees were also unaware of the roles that they ought to have played in the disaster recovery process and thus the work was left to the IT department, thereby overwhelming them.

Lessons Learned from the Disaster in Westinghouse

  • There is a need to have incident management teams in the organization that can help in responding to the disastrous incidents when they occur.
  • A disaster recovery plan is necessary to make sure the organization is well prepared to address any disaster.
  • There is a need to have a public relations officer on the command staff as well as a public information officer.
  • The information should be well disseminated in the event of a disaster outbreak
  • The employees should be well trained on how to respond to any disaster
  • There is need to have a DR plan for every department in the organization

References

Berke, P. R., Kartez, J., & Wenger, D. (1993). Recovery after disaster: achieving sustainable development, mitigation and equity. Disasters, 17(2), 93-109.

Smith, G. P., & Wenger, D. (2007). Sustainable disaster recovery: operationalizing an existing agenda. In Handbook of disaster research (pp. 234-257). Springer New York.

Fallara, P. (2003). Disaster recovery planning. IEEE potentials, 22(5), 42-44.

Chervenak, A., Vellanki, V., & Kurmas, Z. (1998, March). Protecting file systems: A survey of backup techniques. In Joint NASA and IEEE Mass Storage Conference.



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