Hurricane Harvey carved a path of destruction in Texas in late August, resulting in 81 fatalities and damage to nearly 700 businesses.
We wanted to know how it impacted solution providers in the Houston area. How much damage did they sustained? How well prepared were they for a disaster? How is the recovery going? And what lessons did they learn?
So we asked Faisal Bhutto, VP of enterprise networking, cloud and cybersecurity at Computex Technology Solutions. His company, a Houston-based solution provider, offers a wide range of IT services, including cloud, cybersecurity, data center, enterprise networking and backup recovery. And it endured the full brunt of Hurricane Harvey.
Faisal Bhutto shared his thoughts via email with BCF contributing writer Ed Hannan. The following is an edited version of their exchange.
'Prepare, prepare, prepare!' - Faisal Bhutto of Computex
How extensive was your company’s damage from Hurricane Harvey? And how is the recovery going?
We did not experience any damage. Our NOC [network operations center] and data center, which serves a variety of hosted and managed services, stayed up without any interruption. We designed the data center to be 10 feet off the ground with natural-gas generators providing power backup in case of failure. Despite getting over 50 inches of rain, our building did not take in any water.
What did you do in terms of disaster preparedness that worked?
We build our services to ensure geographic redundancy. All services can be available from our Minneapolis data center facility.
Not only our IT infrastructure is built to failover, but we also have a 24x7x365 NOC in Minnesota, which stayed live and was able to assist customers without any interruption.
Unfortunately, not many organizations have the abilities to build a full DR [disaster recovery] environment where all services are fully redundant.
Our business plan from the get-go accounted for a disaster like this. We not only ensured that IT services stay up, but also made personnel available to service our clients.
How about testing for disaster recovery?
We take our DR failover testing seriously. Once every six months, we do a full DR failover to our Minnesota data center — and vice versa. Since we do this drill quite often, we were prepared for the real thing.
Thankfully, our robust facilities did not take a hit. But even if it had, we would have operated as normal. That is the single most important thing: to prepare for a disaster. And, when there is a threat, to be ready to execute.
Any aspect of your disaster planning that during the hurricane didn’t work?
When we designed our Solution Center, we built an apartment that includes a full shower and laundry facilities. We had staff that stayed within our Solution Center throughout the disaster. But even though there was plenty of food, as well as facilities for resting and sleeping, staying in the building for 4 straight days was too much for our crew.
In hindsight, we should have thought about the inability of people to drive, due to flood waters. And we should have reserved some hotel rooms nearby, with our team on standby to cover shifts.
How much of this was “trial by fire”?
Almost nothing. We prepare, prepare, prepare!