New Orleans IT departments brace for Tropical Storm Gustav

These four organizations survived Katrina and explain how they are more prepared this time

As Hurricane Gustav approaches the US Gulf Coast, the IT lessons learned from the devastating Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that smashed New Orleans and other areas in 2005 are on the minds of many worried IT managers.

"We definitely have concerns about it, especially after what happened three years ago," said David Avgikos, president of Digimation, a 3-D digital animation software company, 10 miles west of New Orleans. "We don't have to be told twice."

In 2005, when the two hurricanes hit the city in quick succession, Digimation was knocked out of business for a week, and its electrical power and Web site weren't restored for two weeks. For Avgikos, those events were lessons learned.

Today, all of the company's approximately 50 PCs and servers are backed up to a main server, which is then backed up to a portable 1TB USB drive that goes out the door with the last employee who is evacuating in the event of an emergency, he said. That employee also takes an "emergency box" that includes additional DVD backups.

And the company's Web site, which was hosted in-house when Katrina and Rita struck, are now farmed out to a remote hosting company far from New Orleans so the Web site stays in operation even if the business is being affected by an emergency.

"Now, in the worst case scenario, wherever we locate to, we can go to the nearest Best Buy and get what we need to be up and running in a few hours," Avgikos said.

The company's e-mail server is remotely located, too, to ensure that e-mail access is available from wherever the company's 12 employees are in the event of an emergency.

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