Y2k plans aided Wall St recovery

The $5bn (£3.4bn) that Wall Street spent to address the Y2k problem is now paying off with last week's terrorist attack on New...

The $5bn (£3.4bn) that Wall Street spent to address the Y2k problem is now paying off with last week's terrorist attack on New York's financial district, IT managers claim.

Gregor Bailar, chief information officer at the National Association of Securities Dealers, Nasdaq's Washington-based parent company, said he was glad the Y2k planning gave his company the chance to rehearse a disaster before last week's devastation.

Nasdaq's Liberty Plaza offices were only hundreds of feet away from the World Trade Centre, but were not seriously damaged when the building collapsed. However, power and normal communications were cut off, and around 200 Nasdaq employees were relocated to the company's headquarters in Connecticut and to an alternate office in New Jersey provided by WorldCom.

"We've got staff that have been here pretty much since the disaster occurred," Bailar said. "And it's been critical to have [communications] with senior managers."

It's been an exhausting week for IT managers and workers who have been splicing back together or rerouting the spaghetti of data and voice wires that were cut or overloaded with traffic after the attacks, which took out a major Verizon Communications switching station that served millions of customers. The sheer number of calls made last week also hampered mobile phone communications.

John McCarthy, former deputy director of the National Y2k Information Coordination Centre in Washington said, if it had not been for Y2k planning, the financial services community would not have been as well prepared for last week's attack.

Y2k brought the concepts of continuity management and risk planning out of the "trenches where IT folks were" and into the boardroom. With continuity management, companies take a close look at their staff, processes, technology and information and what areas would be vulnerable in various disaster scenarios.

The devastation from the terrorist attack created a new benchmark in disaster planning and has probably changed the direction of disaster planning discussions in the coming weeks and months.

Some companies found their resources were strained when they simply tried to determine how many and which of their employees had been lost to the destruction. Managing IT workers who were not physically harmed in the attacks is also a trying task, IT managers said.

Cynthia Bonnette, assistant director of the bank technology group at Federal Deposit Insurance said one lesson she learned from the attacks is that the reactions of employees need to be addressed more thoroughly in disaster planning.

Bonnette said one area that is not often taken into consideration is the panic factor, which creates "all types of confusion and problems with communications."

"It has been a tragic, emotional event," continued Bailar. "The pain and exhaustion that comes from that alone was quite different, but the coordination and precision involved in what we're doing almost distracts you from that. We know what we have to do, and we're doing it. I'm very proud of the team and the industry."

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