Nov 04 2008

COOP for Real

Convergence. We hear a lot of talk about it in the IT realm, from the merging of logical and physical security to everything-over-IP communications. It’s now coming true for continuity of operations and disaster recovery: Agencies are tapping virtualization, EoIP networks, wireless broadband, telework programs and remote management tools deployed for operational requirements to support COOP as well.

Without moving a single server or other physical asset, virtualization provides built-in disaster recovery, points out Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Anil Karmel. That fact was a chief driver in the lab’s virtualization effort (and the project’s nine-month return on investment), which we detail in our cover story, “Masters of Disaster”.

At the Coast Guard, the move to IP has greatly improved disaster-response communications and eased emergen­cy communication management in particular. The Rescue 21 network, now being deployed, offers Voice over IP fail-over and other disaster recovery features that allow for better COOP, says Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Brian Anderson. “It’s an adaptable, flexible communications system that resides on the IP network.” (See “Clear Connection”.)

Cut ’Em Loose

The adoption of wireless broadband (as explained in “Wireless Broadband to the Rescue” ) also provides peace of mind during crises, and new 3G-capable smartphones and handheld devices can extend an agency’s ability to give workers who can’t get to the office or need to be in the field direct access to all their apps and data.

The IT team at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has created a portal interface for its wireless broadband users, more of whom increasingly access data on handhelds. “One of the great things about our portal is that it works via PDAs,” says Larry Bell, deputy assistant director and deputy assistant CIO. “So people can do searches from their PDA, just as if it were a notebook.”

Telework combined with Web 2.0 tools creates a new type of government work environment that can shift to support collaboration should disaster strike. There would be little need to train or prepare workers because they already do their jobs this way part of the time, notes Casey Coleman, CIO at the General Services Administration, whom we spoke to for the FedTech Interview. In IT, 50 percent of employees telework.

“We look at Web 2.0 as a way to build that informal network, especially since people are spread out across the country and working remotely,” she says. “We think there’s a huge business value for Web 2.0.”

Remote management tools, particularly when coupled with virtualization and disk backup, can make COOP and DR less of a headache. William Kirkendale, CIO for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, calls server virtualization a “game changer” when it comes to remote server management. And Ray Sexton, chief of IT operations and infrastructure for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, notes that with disk storage all data “can be remotely managed with the management tools inherent in the storage products.” (See “A Far Reach”.)

The real message from these real-world examples is simple: Look for ways to extend new tools you are deploying and make the most with what you’ve already got. In these times of tight budgets and leadership change, doing more with less doesn’t have to mean doing it less well.



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Lee Copeland

Editor in Chief

Photo: Orlando Copeland