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Bank avoids data disaster on Sept. 11

Only days before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Commerzbank implemented a business continuity plan for its New York City offices. When the World Trade Center crumbled, the world's 16th largest bank secured its critical data thanks to a combination of preparation and people willing to go the extra mile.

Commerzbank, which handles US$30 billion in transactions daily, had its offices at Two World Financial Center, only 300 feet from the World Trade Center towers. Although its building remained standing, hundreds of windows were shattered and debris covered the offices and equipment within.

It took Wall Street nearly a week to resume trading, but Commerzbank's information was ready for business in hours, even before the company's employees could reassemble at a disaster recovery site, 30 miles away in Rye, N.Y. The company used EMC's Symmetrix Remote Data Facility (SRDF) hardware and software to safeguard its customer transactions, financial databases, e-mail and other crucial applications. SRDF replicates primary data to one or more sites, making copies remotely available almost instantly.

"Before we deployed EMC, we were relying on tape for back-up and restoration. With just a tape back-up solution, our data was exposed and vulnerable," said Gene Batan, Commerzbank's vice president of Information Technology Systems for North America. "In the event of a disaster, the integrity of our information was at the mercy of the last time we backed-up to

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tape, and restoration time would take at least a few days. EMC's solutions provided us with real-time replication and shortened the window of recovery from a few days to a few minutes."

Commerzbank had immediate fail-over capability for its EMC storage area network (SAN), which supported its Windows 2000 and Unix environments. Using SRDF, Commerzbank mirrored its SAN to a Symmetrix Enterprise Storage system at the remote recovery site, creating a standard, immediately functional environment for critical decision-support and transactional data.

"If our Unix and Windows 2000 platforms were still relying on a tape-based recovery solution, it would have taken weeks to fully restore the data," said Alban Bramble, Commerzbank's assistant vice president of Unix and Windows 2000 Platforms. "Instead, because of the disk-based replication solution we deployed, we instantly had a full mirrored copy of our data at the remote site. Our Unix and Windows 2000 environments were intact and secure, enabling us to focus on other problems that arose during the 9/11 crisis."

Following Sept. 11, Commerzbank's DR site became its primary data center. The recovery process then shifted to restoring Commerzbank's unprotected data and ensuring the back-up of the DR data. During this process, EMC Global Services had as many as eight staff people working 24-hour shifts with Commerzbank.

The highest priority for Commerzbank was restoring from tape a portion of mission-critical information that didn't use SRDF. In some instances, tape back-ups from the data center at Two World Financial Center were not originally stored on EMC systems and Commerzbank required multiple terabytes of added capacity at its DR site.

EMC's Global Services delivered a loaner CLARiiON FC4700 storage system on Sept. 12, providing capacity and configuration at the back-up site. Within 36 hours, data storage capacity was quickly doubled while the data was safeguarded with a second copy.

Many of EMC's practices had been developed in preparation for the "Y2K" scares. One critical feature was a 24-hour bridged phone line connected to its headquarters in Hopkinton, Mass. for companies affected by the Sept. 11 events. EMC customers, staff, partners and even competitors could call in to ask questions, request parts or equipment and share knowledge in real time.

"It's like a reflex. It's what we do best. We identified all our clients below Canal Street, their operations and configurations within the first hours on Sept. 11 and then started diverting pieces off our assembly lines and moving people in," said Joseph Walton, EMC's senior vice president of Global Services.

"With those assets in use daily, the importance of a storage network that flexibly supports nearly every computing platform is key. No one can predict when a disaster will strike, nor how long the company will have to operate from an interim facility," added Mr. Batan. "We're committed to adding more storage and creating a more robust storage network. Because of what we experienced, we really must have active sites in both locations rather than a passive site where it's used for data recovery."

For more information about EMC, visit its Web site.

For additional information about Commerzbank, visit its Web site.

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This was first published in March 2002

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