When disaster strikes

Most government information technology managers have contingency plans in

place in case a network fails, but what happens if a fire destroys the entire


Gaithersburg, Md.-based Recovery Point Systems Inc. recently opened

a facility outside Washington, D.C., that lets agencies create a duplicate

version of their IT systems, which then can be activated on very short notice

in case the primary systems get knocked out.

"We are like an insurance policy," said Randy Thompson, director of

operations at Recovery Point Systems. "We are there if your building burns

down, there is a flood, a chemical spill or for some other reason you can't

get into your building."

Recovery Point Systems has worked with federal agencies for several

years providing off-site storage for top-secret and classified electronic

documents at a facility in Maryland (for security reasons, the company declined

to disclose the exact location).

The company stores CDs, floppy disks and magnetic tapes there. "We store

everything but paper," Thompson said. "Paper is a fire hazard."

With the new recovery services, an entire agency system — including

networks, servers, PCs and software applications — can be duplicated, or

mirrored, and kept running at all times at the off-site facility. The company

provides a sealed environment that includes phone service from multiple

points for redundancy and on-site generators to ensure a steady power supply.

Also, the facility has top-secret security clearance.

Prices start at $1,500 per month to develop and maintain a basic recovery

system. If activated, the cost of using the recovery center is roughly equivalent

to the monthly subscription price per day. In the case of a regionwide disaster,

sharing protocols are designed to accommodate multiple users.

Agencies can upgrade and test software applications at the facility

to make sure the remote location works as well as the agency's main office.

World Wide Web sites can also be mirrored to a server at the Recovery

Point Systems facility. However, because the Web site is an exact copy of

the agency's network, including Internet domain names and addresses, the

mirrored site will not offer any additional protection from hacker attacks.

"[Agencies] will have to fix the holes in their system before they can prevent

someone from hacking in," Thompson said.

In July, Recovery Point Systems plans to add server-hosting services,

similar to the data center operations that other companies provide. Recovery

Point Systems will offer servers in secure locations, with high-speed networks,

generators and physical security, but agencies must provide their own software.

Unlike the disaster recovery service that duplicates an agency's current

IT operation and is used only in emergencies, the hosted server will act

as an agency's primary data processing center, allowing the agency to outsource

that work to a private contractor.


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