Jan 18, 2013

The Atlanta Falcons: six lessons in disaster recovery from the dirty birds

Ansley Kilgore

six lessons in disaster recoveryFor most of last Sunday’s NFL playoff game, the Atlanta Falcons rose above the Seahawks in the Georgia Dome. But with a 20-point lead and minutes remaining in the 4th quarter, disaster struck. The feisty Seahawks went on a surprise attack that sent the soaring Falcons into a speeding nosedive, threatening a disastrous end to an otherwise great season. With 31 seconds left to play, disaster (call him Marshawn Lynch) scored a touchdown. Seattle was up 28-27. And just like that, a once boisterous, confident stadium suddenly transformed into a quiet, doubtful dome. There I stood, among a stunned crowd looking at defeat, thinking to myself, “They better have a plan.”

Thankfully, the Falcons did have a plan. The game was a great example of how disaster preparedness can help overcome setbacks. Here at Internap, this reminded us that preparing for disaster is also critical for your IT Infrastructure.

As the Falcons get ready for another tough playoff challenge, let’s take a look at six ways your data center provider can prevent disruptions to your critical business operations when disaster strikes.

1. Disaster-resistant design & infrastructure
First and foremost, make sure your data center provider’s facilities are designed to N+1 redundancy standards for both power and cooling. The Atlanta Falcons are a well-built team, designed to find ways to win using an infrastructure based around speed, power and the ability to maintain coolness under pressure, a.k.a. “Matty Ice”.

2. Documented emergency response plan
It is critical that your provider has well-documented emergency preparedness and disaster response plans. Coach Mike Smith and his staff have a sophisticated and explosive playbook that guarantees success if implemented correctly when disaster strikes.

3. Mock drills
Only through testing and conducting drills will a data center provider truly be prepared for an event. The infamous two-minute drill is practiced multiple times in any offense, and results in perfectly designed plays that give the Falcons a chance to win by a touchdown or field goal.

4. Preventative maintenance
A highly structured and robust maintenance program is crucial in preventing a disaster from impacting your business. Your provider should have a Computer Maintenance Management System (CMMS) to keep track of when maintenance is due, as well as repairs that have already been done. After failing to score during most of the 4th quarter, the Falcons decided to perform some maintenance on their offense with seconds to go in the game. Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez had been top threats all game, so the Falcons decided to change their plan and target receiver Harry Douglass – open for a 29-yard gain. Life breathed into the Georgia Dome once again.

5. Communication best practices
Expect your data center provider to notify you of any potential business-impacting events, as well as send timely, detailed updates throughout. Matt Ryan gives phenomenal instructions in no huddle situations. By effectively communicating plays at the line and directing players in poetic cadence, he sets up Tony Gonzalez to sprint off the line, find a hole in the defense and run for a 19-yard gain. With 14 seconds to go, fans rise to their feet. Falcons have a chance!

6. The right people!
Does your data center provider have the highly trained and skilled people needed to operate its complex equipment? With all of the Falcons offensive weapons, Seattle struggled to defend Atlanta in the waning seconds of the game. And with one of the top ranked kickers in the league, Matt Ryan and the Falcons set up Matt Bryant for a 49-yard field goal with 8 seconds to go.

Now that the Falcons have digested last Sunday’s Seahawks meal, they are preparing for another glorious battle. Sharpening their talons. Polishing their beaks. On Sunday afternoon, two teams will duel in front of millions, but only one will survive. It’s time to Rise Up, Atlanta. Claim what is rightfully yours – Victory.

Learn more about the importance of data centers and disaster recovery in Internap’s ebook, Data Center Disaster Preparedness: Six Assurances You Should Look for in a Data Center Provider.

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Ansley Kilgore

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