February 23, 2009 By Andy Opsahl
Hurricane Ike, which made landfall in September 2008, snuffed out electricity in several of Harris County, Texas' government office buildings. It could have disrupted county operations if employees couldn't work from home. Instead, thanks to the county's ability to telework using a remote-access network, critical services remained uninterrupted.
The county's main data center resides in downtown Houston, but it has a backup disaster-recovery site in an outlying area. The disaster-recovery site has its own server farm that kicks in if the downtown system fails.
"It ended up that the outlying areas took the biggest hit and the downtown area stayed intact," said James Hebert, division chief of the Harris County Information Technology Center. "The busiest remote usage happened after the storm, when everybody was unsure about the amount of damage to the area. People were accessing applications from their houses -- the people still with power, anyway."
The county used Citrix remote application delivery software to give employees access to the systems and information they needed to keep working. Hebert's staff chose to camp out at the downtown data center to respond onsite to remote access requests -- although they could have worked remotely if necessary.
"People brought their cots, sleeping bags, boxes of food, and we rode out the storm downtown," said Cliff Lawler, a local area network administrator for Harris County.
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