August 18, 2003
Jay Wessel was attending a picnic last Thursday as much of the Northeast went dark. "At 4:30, every cell phone and pager in the place went off," says Wessel, the IT director for the Boston Celtics basketball team. And though the blackout's impact on the franchise was limited to downed E-mail servers in New York, he says it has forced him to take stock of the Celtics' backup plans.
Would he have been ready had the outage struck Boston? Wessel candidly says no. "I'm not even sure what I need to do to get ready." After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Wessel and his staff looked into securing some sort of data-recovery service, but all the vendors he spoke with were in major East Coast cities. "It doesn't really do me any good to back up my data 10 miles away," he says, adding that the vulnerability of large cities makes them poor choices for backup data centers. For that reason, his dream plan would be to have a backup facility somewhere in the Midwest, or perhaps in rural western Massachusetts, but he hasn't yet come across any vendors that offer such a service, and a team-owned backup facility isn't economically feasible for an organization of 50 employees. The scope of the blackout has Wessel revisiting the issue, looking at storage and data-recovery products. He's even considering a backup product the Celtics would buy and locate outside a metro area. But disaster recovery isn't all that's on Wessel's mind after he had to take steps to protect his network from the Blaster worm, which spread over the weekend. He says he was lucky--no internal systems were infected. The impact was limited to a couple of employees on vacation who logged on to the Internet with their laptops and were infected, and those machines were patched before they were allowed to connect to the Celtics' network. Still, as the worm frenzy peaked, Wessel's paternal instincts took over, and on Wednesday he asked everyone to take long lunches while he hurriedly patched every last device in the company. Wessel says he'd have addressed the problem sooner if not for Microsoft's boy-who-cried-wolf reputation on patches. He says it's fortunate the Celtics responded in time to prevent an internal infection, but he's not convinced he'll be so lucky next time. "When do you panic when Microsoft says you should patch this, and when do you not panic?" he says. "Every day, there's something new on the Microsoft site. Maybe we need to go to red, green, and yellow indicators for Microsoft patches."
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