The FireOn Wednesday, April 17th, 2013, the Macomb County Building in downtown Mount Clemens, Michigan, had an electrical fire that destroyed the fiber, network and phone connections to the county’s data center, displacing 200 employees and several departments. See, “State of Emergency: Hackel says County Building shut down for months following fire,” Macomb Daily, April 19, 2013.
Thankfully no one was hurt.
As any IT professional can imagine, this was a major event, critically disrupting technology service across departments. The wiring, which connected the county network to the data was burned. Since the fire, users had to do their best to carry on with paper documents, a frantic return to carbon copies and limited phone service.
What about the data?! How much did Macomb County lose? How much work will it require to reconstitute the data?
The Silver LiningMacomb County recently switched to Google Apps for Government, including secure Gmail services for most employees, which means their email is hosted in Google’s secure data centers and is accessible from any device with an Internet connection, anywhere.
This is disaster business continuity redefined and is a huge life-saver for Google Apps users, including Macomb County employees. None of their email data was lost. Although the network was disrupted, email remained accessible from cell phones and other Internet devices. Fortunately, thanks to heroic efforts by the county’s IT Department, no other data was lost, either.
Prior to the switch to Google Apps this may not have been the case, to put it simply.
“I am even more pleased with our County Executive’s decision to ‘go Google.’ Our staff maintained Gmail communication throughout the emergency. We only needed an Internet connection after the fire to start quickly restoring some services,” said Macomb County Clerk / Register of Deeds Carmella Sabaugh.
|Chromebooks being delivered to Macomb County Clerk / Register of Deeds Carmella Sabaugh and Administrative Assistant Crystal Brenner by Michael Jefferies.|
How does Newmind fit into this story?
Signaled by the Bat Light. Newmind Brought out the Bat MobileMacomb County Clerk / Register of Deeds Carmella Sabaugh and her department integrated their workflow with Google Apps for Government and developed a solid relationship with Google in order to share their experiences with other organizations considering moving their email services to Google. When the fire struck, Carmella’s staff contacted Google to see if there was anyway to get a few Chromebooks to use for displaced workers due to the fire.
Who did Google call? Their trusty, go-to partner Newmind Group.
Here’s where that phone call comes into play, and I got in my car and drove to Mount Clemens to drop off several Chromebooks.
“We were thrilled when Newmind stepped forward to provide Chromebooks for use on the Macomb County Circuit Court Building’s wireless Internet network. Even though the county’s servers were down, our email, calendars and documents were accessible with the Chromebooks,” said Macomb County Clerk / Register of Deeds Carmella Sabaugh.
“We are using the Chromebooks to provide public service at our temporary public real estate records search area for our Register of Deeds counter. We are also using Chromebooks to access our email, calendars, and documents and to track security paper.”
|Having never used a Chromebook before, and having no IT background, Macomb County Register of Deeds employee Traci Thompson became the department’s Chromebook administrator after a 15-minute crash-course on connecting to the wireless network. This photo shows Chromebooks provided by Newmind at the temporary Register of Deeds public search counter in the Court Building.|
Backup & Disaster RecoveryIt was very motivating to see in practice how cloud-based technologies, like Google Apps, can ensure that data isn’t lost, service isn’t interrupted, and even when bad stuff happens, the right technology can reduce and even eliminate damages. All I could think about was the other organizations across the country who have not yet made the transition to the next generation of backup, redundancy and disaster recovery tools?
If we can help them make the transition to these tools then we can help them avoid scenarios like the one Macomb is facing now. Our disaster recovery solutions allow servers to be spun up virtually in the cloud within 5 minutes of failure. In Macomb’s case, that would have meant that only minutes after the fire, all data, not just Google Apps, would have been accessible via the cloud.