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Computer recovery companies go to work
From: InfoSec News <isn () c4i org>
Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 00:49:03 -0500 (CDT)


By Stephen Shankland
Staff Writer, CNET News.com 
September 12, 2001, 3:35 p.m. PT 

"The first call came in at 9:05 (a.m.) Eastern time," just a few
minutes after the first plane struck the north tower of the 110-story
World Trade Center on Tuesday, Comdisco spokesman Rich Maganini said
Wednesday. "The calls came in almost one after the other right after

"By midday, we had 25 disaster declarations. We are currently
supporting 35 customers, many of which either had operations in the
World Trade Center or in nearby buildings," Maganini said. So far, 30
of those companies--the "vast majority" in New York but some affected
by evacuations in Chicago's Sears Tower and elsewhere--have begun
using 13 Comdisco computing facilities, he said.

Disaster-recovery companies such as Comdisco specialize in helping
customers prepare for cataclysmic events like floods, fires,
earthquakes, wars--or terrorist attacks. They offer clients basic
services such as room to bring backup data and set up operations to
more sophisticated and expensive "mirroring" in which remote computers
simultaneously run the same operations as a company's primary

SunGard, a competitor that is attempting to acquire Comdisco, also has
begun working with affected customers, with about 750 employees
dealing with consequences of Tuesday's attacks. Fourteen of SunGard's
customers have declared a disaster and 68 more are on alert, said Dave
Palermo, vice president of marketing. SunGard offers everything from
mainframes to offices with PCs and phones.

"At about 8:54 (a.m. EDT Tuesday), just minutes after the first plane
hit, our crisis team began calling customers in the financial
district," Palermo said. "Some people are in our facilities now, and
some are trying to make their way out of the city to get there."

While the human tragedy of the attack on the World Trade Center and
Pentagon is staggering, from a computing perspective there have been
more devastating disasters. With Hurricane Floyd in 1999, 26 companies
had to declare a disaster.

SunGard has 26 facilities around the country with more than a million
square feet of floor space. It has desktop computers ready to go, but
through agreements with PC manufacturers the company can quickly have
thousands more delivered, Palermo said. "We're nowhere near capacity
at this point," he said.

Consulting firm EDS also is helping about a dozen companies deal with
the attack, including a financial services company whose operations
are being moved to New Jersey, said Rebecca Whitener, director of
security and privacy services.

Financial services company Morgan Stanley, with 3,700 employees
working in the south World Trade Center tower, is one company that
must deal with Monday's collapse of the buildings.

Redundant computer systems--which kick in when the main systems go
down--worked as planned and no client or trade information was lost,
according to a company memo seen by CNET News.com. Morgan Stanley
could not be immediately reached for comment.

SunGard isn't able to accept new customers affected by the attack,
Palermo said, but other companies are offering discounts or free
services to those affected by the attack.

Cervalis, which houses customers' computing operations in its two data
centers, also is offering discounted services, said Zack Margolis,
vice president of marketing and business development.

"Right now we can offer immediate services to companies that need to
re-establish employee and customer communications or other information
technology infrastructure," Margolis said. Cervalis is offering free
consulting services and a first month free for companies that want to
use its data centers, he said.

OnTrack Data International, a company that recovers data from damaged
hard disks or tapes, is changing its pricing rules for those affected
by Tuesday's attacks, said Greg Olson, senior director of data

"It's not going to cost the customer anything to have us take a look
at the system," and the company will charge less than the market rate
of $1,000 to $1,500 per hard disk for data recovery, he said. "We are
certainly here to help as much as we possibly can."

OnTrack recovers data from about 25,000 hard disks each year and
currently is working on thousands of storage systems recovered from
Texas floods earlier this year. Most of the company's work is from
hardware or software failure or human error, but about 3 percent comes
from natural disasters.

Several computer companies, including IBM, Sun Microsystems and
Hewlett-Packard, also offer disaster-recovery services.

Sun Microsystems, which has many customers in the financial district
of New York, primarily offers planning services rather than
disaster-recovery services, said Kevin Coyne, director for enterprise
services. But the server seller is talking to customers, preparing
lists of equipment that needs to be replaced and is contacting
partners who handle disaster recovery work, he said.

"The main thing now is assessing what the needs are and making sure we
can provide equipment," Coyne said.

While invaluable following a man-made or natural disaster, recovery
services can be very expensive, especially when customers require that
computer systems be available without delay after an incident. "Costs
can go up dramatically as you move toward higher-availability
requirements," Coyne said. But often the price tag can be worth it.

"A lot of times, customers are finding that losses of $100,000 or $1
million per hour quickly justify the cost of a replicated site," he

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