tidBiTS
Informs and engages the UNB community on IT developments and news

Management Briefing - IT Continuity

Author: ITS

Posted on Sep 23, 2014

Category: Management Briefings

Background For several years now ITS has been planning, investing in, and implementing an IT continuity strategy, ensuring alignment with the university’s high‐priority risk‐related goals and objectives. Recent experience during post‐tropical storm Arthur shows how this focused effort has paid off—enterprise IT services like email, websites, Datatel, and so on were unaffected even though much of Fredericton and the rest of the province suffered widespread power outages that in some cases lasted for weeks. Disaster recovery site complete UNB’s new disaster recovery facility was completed and commissioned early this year. Designed to reduce recovery time in the event of a complete loss of the main UNB data center, the DR site houses redundant critical networking, data storage, and backup systems and servers. In the event of a disaster, the DR site will become operational in a very short time, allowing ITS staff to rebuild essential systems and services quickly. The DR site is not currently designed as a failover facility; this means there would be an interruption to critical and normal services, lasting up to 6 weeks, during which the rebuilding would occur. While this is a vast improvement over UNB’s former state in which there was no disaster recovery site at all, it is certainly less than ideal. ITS will be installing many more redundant systems in the DR site over the next few years, which will reduce recovery time further. Our eventual goal is to provide a seamless failover experience should a disaster disrupt the Head Hall data center. Disaster recovery plan complete Any response to a disaster is only as good as the plan it is based on. ITS has completely rewritten its disaster recovery plan, ensuring it is comprehensive, reflects industry best practices, and is maintained and updated appropriately. There are a couple of unique features about the new DR plan: First, the plan lives entirely online—there is no printed version available (nor will there be). Instead, our plan is housed in a wiki, an editable web‐based format that is very useful for categorization of diverse information and sets of instructions, which is exactly how the DR plan is designed. The DR plan is backed up in multiple places, most importantly offsite at another, remote, institution—ITS staff will have immediate and full access to the plan should our own systems be unavailable. The wiki format also makes updating and revising the plan a breeze; anyone authorized to do so can edit any section of the plan, at any time. Second, the plan has been tested very thoroughly, but without impact to production systems. In other words, we have found ways to ensure the plan will meet our needs in the event of an emergency without having to bring down critical systems to ‘see what happens’. A variety of tools and techniques have been used to ensure the plan meets expectations, including testing during routine outage windows, taking advantage of unscheduled outages, simulation of disaster scenarios, plus real testing of protocols like invoking the plan and contacting various employees who need to be involved in the recovery process. The DR plan is an important step forward for IT continuity at UNB, and the community can rest assured it will work as expected. UNB data center renovation underway Finally, work is set to begin in the next few weeks on renewing the UNB data center in Head Hall. Once complete, the renovated facility will have new electrical, air conditioning, and air handling systems, and will have capacity to meet the university’s computing needs for many years to come while significantly lowering power and other costs. The project has the added benefit of reducing risk of service outages, and with stateof‐ the‐art equipment and brand new wiring, in addition to the recently installed backup power generator, the Head Hall data center will be the equal of any at comparable institutions.

Sept. 23, 2014, Terry Nikkel, AVP, ITS