The world today is interconnected, there’s a continual flow of information leaving the Cayman Islands for destinations all across the globe. It is this level of connectedness that’s at the pulse of many local businesses and the reason why it is so important to have a proper disaster recovery plan in place.
A good disaster recovery plan can keep your business running in the event of any type of natural or man- made disaster. Even though disaster recovery covers a wide range of potentially catastrophic events, the Cayman Islands are especially prone to hurricanes, which is why the disaster recovery plans here tend to focus on hurricanes in particular.
In 2004 many companies based in Grand Cayman had the unenviable task of having their disaster preparedness tested by Hurricane Ivan. However, this presented companies like LIME with a unique opportunity to strengthen their disaster recovery planning and ultimately benefit their customers.
“Ivan was something that taught us lessons on a local, regional and international level. Afterwards, we did a comprehensive review of what happened we looked at our network and, we have definitely built in resiliency,” says Donnie Forbes, head of service support and delivery for LIME Cayman Islands.
In an effort to strengthen disaster preparedness especially after Hurricane Gilbert, a decision was made by LIME to undertake a comprehensive exercise in an effort to determine whether their infrastructure would be able to withstand a direct hit from a Category 5 hurricane. The outcome determined that buildings which housed all personnel and equipment at the time would not be able to withstand the level winds and flooding that would accompany a Category 5 storm.
“In December 2003 we started moving people and equipment into One Technology Square, a specialised telecommunications centre that’s been designed to withstand category 5 storms and then in September 2004 Ivan hit. If we had not taken the results on board from the infrastructure exercise LIME would not have been housed in One Technology Square and ultimately Cayman would have been in a totally different place in the aftermath of Ivan,” says Forbes.
LIME’s main office One Technology Square, located on Eastern Avenue is a first class telecommunications centre. It’s vital that businesses on island can remain operational for as long as possible and that their data is kept safe and secure during any potential threat. Business customers can take advantage of LIME’s colocation services offered at One Technology and have confidence that the Ivan tested building will keep all their data safe a secure throughout any storm and recovery period. The ground floor is 10 feet above sea level with all network infrastructure and also the data centre located on the second floor, safe from any potential flood damage.
Additional assurances come from two backup generators with enough fuel stored on site to run the generator for up to 10 days. The building is supported with a redundant uninterruptable power supply system to ensure continuous service and is backed up by cooling and humidity control measures to protect the equipment. The safety of the facility is also enhanced by a fire suppression and extensive security to ensure the safety of the facility.
“In terms of disaster recovery, we have one of the most advanced buildings within the entire Caribbean region. It’s the heartbeat of the Caymanian telecommunications network and all disaster recovery really begins and ends right here,” says Rick Bengle, team lead corporate accounts for LIME Cayman Islands. Bengle suggests that when businesses are looking at their disaster recovery and business continuity plans they need to question their prospective service providers on their facilities and their disaster readiness.
“We often walk our customers through our facilities, and when they come in they don’t understand the exact nature of what we provide to this Island, and when they leave they have a totally different understanding. When they see the multiple generators upstairs that supply power and the backup plans that we have, they start to understand,” says Bengle.
As a result of Hurricane Ivan, LIME has been working on hardening the rest of its local infrastructure, including the cables running off island as well.
“We did a lot of work in East End to harden that particular area. The track for the duct used to be on the sea side of the road, however during Ivan the road got washed out and we sustained some damage, as a result we moved it to the land side. We reinforced this by digging a channel into the ironshore, putting in the duct work and then pouring it back in with concrete,” says Forbes.
In the 90s LIME began investing heavily in the Cayman Jamaica Fibre System, which provides connectivity to Jamaica and onwards from there. They also are in partnership with the consortium that owns the MAYA1 cable, which provides connectivity into Central America, North America and South
America. This means that should any one of the cables be out of commission due to the impact of a hurricane or earthquake and alternative route for the data can be found.
According to Forbes one of the biggest weaknesses that Hurricane Ivan exposed was not preparing enough the aftermath and the recovery phase.
“It really was a case of now that everything is broken, how do we fix it? As a company we have really focused on that – our hurricane plan has gone from one volume to three volumes. We have created tasks for everything that needed to maintain our business. We now have a dedicated team that focuses on the recovery period including dealing damage assessment, having the right people on the ground and the correct resources in place” say Forbes.
As part of their regional approach to disaster recovery, LIME keep a list of available resources throughout the Caribbean, whether physical resources or human resources, so the necessary skills and equipment can be tracked down quickly for any type of disaster recovery situation.
“Should Cayman get hit again I know if I need something there is a database that tells me which country has it and I can get it shipped here at short notice. We also have an emergency stockpile of equipment in the US, which is our closest point of contact. However, we have put together such an extensive plan that we don’t anticipate there would be a mad rush for supplies like there was after Ivan. This is because we’ve already got so much already place to help us during the recovery phase” says Forbes.
Resources are something that Bengle is quick to point to as a big competitive advantage that LIME has over its competitors.
“Our investment in staff is definitely something people need to consider. It’s important to know how many people are supporting the network and how many technicians there are. When customers begin to ask these hard questions they get very different answers from us than they may from some of our competitors. We encourage all prospective clients to ask about support and resources,” says Bengle.
According to Jefferson Tibbetts, enterprise account manager, “customers turn to us for custom designed disaster recovery solutions based on their needs and budget on the back of their infrastructure.
These can include business continuity solutions like running soft client applications on iPhones in order to provide a seamless user experience should a business lose its office in the wake of a disaster, allowing users to answer calls to their office number on their mobile. Businesses are also using MiFi devices to provide data capacity in the event that Internet access at the offices goes down.”