LAS VEGAS: Firms need to prepare their data centres for natural disasters, such as the Hurricane Sandy, or face widespread IT blackouts, according to US health insurer EmblemHealth.
EmblemHealth director of infrastructure operations Eric Tomasello cited the firm's experience weathering Hurricane Sandy in 2012 as proof of the need for robust backups during a press question and answer session at EMC World.
"For us the reason we went to XtremIO was to a large extent Hurricane Sandy. After the hurricane hit, New York City was without power for about a week," he said.
"Our data centre is in downtown New York so when that went down we were in trouble. Then when the dam broke and our back up in New Jersey was flooding we were really in trouble."
Tomasello Hurricane Sandy, which was the second most costly hurricane in US history, played havoc with EmblemHealth's systems at a critical time when many people needed information about their insurance policies, and led the firm to radically rethink its front- and back-end IT architecture.
"Being a health insurance company people call constantly. While from an outsider point of view we were able to recover quite quickly, it cost us a lot of money. We were moving to a call centre out of Oklahoma for the emergency, which was expensive.
"Following the disaster, when we took a step back, we found virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) was the best environment.
"For us it wasn't if we were going for VDI, but how we were going to do it. How we implemented it was the real question we put a lot of thought behind."
He said the firm explored various options but soon chose EMC's XtremIO technology to aid its IT revamp due to its robust customer support programme and scalable nature.
"We decided to go with XtremIO, which solved our issue in a very short amount of time," he said.
"We knew that with EMC if they couldn't solve an issue for us straight away, they'd have the capacity to fix it in the future. We didn't see that with a lot of other competitors.
"There's always bumps in the road. The big thing for us is when you hit a bump and make a phone call, five people jump on it to help."
He added since it's investment in 2014, the firm has already seen tangible results and is better prepared for natural disasters.
"The investment we've made right now is configured to support 2,500 users each and running real time we can replace all our laptops if we want to," he said.
"But in a disaster we could ramp it up to 3,000 very quickly. It also means our workers can use any device they want, a Nexus tablet, whatever."
Looking to the future, Tomasello said the firm is looking at extending its use of XtremIO to support a BYOD policy, but is taking a cautious approach.
"Being a health insurance company you don't got at the speed of light, we go in baby steps," he said.
He said the firm did experience some disruptions when going through the hardware migration process, but added this would have been the case with whatever service provider EmblemHealth chose.
The EmblemHealth director's comments follow the unveiling of EMC's latest XtremIO 4.0 version.
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