Caught without a DR plan, fire destroys retailer's IT centre

Harris Farm had no DR plan in place to fall back on

After a fire completely destroyed its IT centre earlier this year, fresh produce retailer Harris Farm, decided to deploy a disaster recovery solution.

The company's chief financial officer, Angus Harris, said the need for a DR plan had been identified prior to the fire but when it did happen there was no formal plan in place to fall back on.

"Be fully prepared and ready to deal with the situation before it happens. Without warning and all of a sudden you wake up in the middle of a nightmare," he said.

The fire, caused by a suspected electrical fault sparked under the floor, swept through the company's IT centre at its warehouse headquarters at Sydney's Paddy's Markets in Flemington. The disaster occured in March this year and had a devasting impact on the 35 year old company which has 800 staff in 20 locations.

Its 3000 square headquarters was the hub for all the company's activities where all stock is delivered before being distributed to outlets.

As a result of the disaster, Harris Farm lost five days worth of valuable data.

The main casualty was Harris Farm's proprietary software program which stores data and provides intelligence on purchases, sales, required deliveries, management accounts, daily stock and sales information. It also provides profit and loss analysis.

Harris called on IMC Communications for assistance and a temporary IT hub was fully operational within a few hours.

IMC Communications then set about resuming operations longer term and establishing a DR and replication strategy. The new solution includes IBM iSeries and xSeries servers, Cisco firewalls, routers and switches and VMWare with services provided by IMC.

Virtual servers at the production site are replicated at the DR site - and the recovery time objective in the future for critical applications will be under six hours.

"The most valuable piece of advice I can give are to quickly call on experts like IMC that can help you get up and running as quickly as possible," Harris said.

IMC Communications technology services director, Andrew Gifford, said his team was driven by the need to minimise the damage to both financial performance and brand equity at Harris Farm.

"This kind of damage potentially has negative, long term business ramifications," Gifford added.

After temporary operations were resumed, IMC spent the next eight weeks organizing new equiipment to restore Harris Farm's IT operations.

In total it took three months to return to normal operations with all the new software and hardware in place.

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