US ATTACK: The toll on Wall Street

Financial services firms face spending billions of dollars to replace IT equipment and software in the wake of the terrorist attack on New York's World Trade Center last week, said industry experts. But customer and business-critical data appear to have been saved by robust automated remote data-backup technologies and effective disaster-prevention strategies.

Preliminary estimates on the cost to rebuild or replace portions of the IT infrastructure for financial services companies whose offices were destroyed in the attack could range from US$3 billion to $5 billion, said Larry Tabb, an analyst at Needham, Mass.-based TowerGroup.

"It looks like their disaster recovery facilities are working pretty well. That's not to say everything is backed up, because there is so much distributed technology around, like PCs," said Tabb. "The major client accounts and information is safe and secure and operating."

Piyush Singh, vice president of IT at RLI Insurance Co., said that although his company's 80th-floor office in the north tower of the World Trade Center was destroyed in the building's collapse, data loss was confined to tape backups for the previous few days. A disaster recovery plan that included routing customer calls to field offices and tapping a backup server at the company's headquarters in Peoria, Ill., ensured that its New York operations were up again by 3 p.m. Tuesday. "We ran backups from our remote data center and sent tapes to the home office," said Singh, who added that all of the firm's employees made it safely out of the World Trade Center.

RLI wasn't the only Wall Street firm prepared for a high-tech armageddon. The global financial community has created IT architectures that are fully redundant to ensure data safety, said Kelly Wester, an analyst at AMR Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. That includes comprehensive software, hardware and site backup.

Case in point: Blackwood Trading LLC, a brokerage firm six blocks from the World Trade Center, mirrors all of its trading data to remote technology centers in Jersey City, N.J. "It's days like this that having triple redundancy actually means something," said Mike Bogan, director of infrastructure at Blackwood. "We have a few physical locations for backup in case of terrorist attacks and acts of God."

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