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FCW’s brush with COOP

We write about the importance of business continuity all the time, but when the power went out at Federal Computer Week’s office in Falls Church, Va., last week, did we have a backup plan? Not exactly.

We send pages to the magazine printing company throughout the week, with feature stories and the Comment, Management, Technology and Business sections closing early in the week. The News and Policy sections close later in the week so that we can bring you breaking news. The result is that we have deadlines every day.

The electricity went out early Tuesday morning when utility workers cut a power line. They told us the power would be restored by 2 p.m.

Luckily, FCW’s Web and e-mail servers are off-site, so they were not affected. But office telephones were dead. Reporters have laptop PCs so they are able to do their work just about anywhere. But most of the servers we use to get printed words onto magazine pages are located in FCW’s offices.

We called everyone who hadn’t arrived at the office yet and asked editors to use their home computers to access e-mail and our Web content management system so we could continue to post stories throughout the day. We agreed to come to the office at 2 p.m. to catch up on the magazine pages. The power was indeed back on by 2 p.m., but about an hour later, it went off again, and that time the utility company had no idea when the problem might be fixed.

A continuity-of-operations expert recently told an FCW staffer that most COOP plans fail to account for power outages. We plan for snowstorms, but organizations overlook everyday occurrences.

The next test for FCW will be putting that experience to good use.

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