October 5, 2007
By Kirk Sibbald
The University is currently at work on contingency plans in the event of a computing support system crash because, according to experts, it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when.
As the campus community becomes increasingly reliant on its computing systems, so too does it become more and more vulnerable to malfunctions in the technology, explained Rick Bunt, associate vice president of Information and Communications Technology.
“We need to ensure that business of the University is not compromised irreparably by the system failures,” he said. “It’s the same reason why we carry spare tires; if the tire goes flat, there’s a spare we can put on.”
Bunt noted the issue was brought to the fore this summer, when a hardware failure brought the online registration system down during the peak registration period. Although everything was back in order within 48 hours, Bunt said it nonetheless demonstrated the need for specific processes to be in place when worst-case scenarios arise.
As part of the process, dubbed the Business Continuity Plan for Enterprise Systems, a review is being conducted in collaboration with both the Information Services Technology (ITS) division and the business units on campus, including the colleges.
The ITS work, which is already complete, involved estimating how long it would take to repair computing systems under various circumstances. Business units are now being asked to state maximum downtime tolerances, define their critical systems, and outline any current contingency plans already in place.
Bunt expects all major elements of the review will be completed by the end of this current semester, as the initiative has already been approved by both the Board of Governors and the Provost’s Committee on Integrated Planning (PCIP). After all business units and colleges submit their reports, Bunt said there will be discussions to determine if the downtime estimates from ITS are reasonable.
“It’s all part of being responsible and taking care to make sure our institutional risks are managed properly,” he said.