The University of Texas at Austin

Preparing to be Prepared

April 5, 2013

On Monday, April 1, 2013, ITS senior staff, ITS team leads, leaders from Campus Safety and Security, and leaders from IT governance representing administration and academics participated in the annual Information Technology Services (ITS) Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery Tabletop Exercise. This years' half-day exercise demonstrated how ITS has matured as an organization in the ability to respond to unplanned, catastrophic events that would adversely impact students, faculty and staff at the University.

This year’s scenario challenged participants to take action when campus faced multiple, simultaneous threats of a massive cyber-attack, severe weather conditions, and infrastructure problems. The content was timely and realistic, and the pacing was great.

Lessons learned include:

  • Communicating with campus IT contacts throughout the incident is critical.
  • Decisions in one ITS group can affect another group’s plans--again, ongoing communication is key!
  • Skill growth from last year’s exercise was tremendous, showing the benefits of conducting these exercises each year.

Many thanks to everyone who made this happen, especially Mike Cunningham, Lisa Wright, and Linda Buckley from the University Data Centers team, for planning the exercise, developing the materials, preparing ITS teams for the exercise and facilitating the drill itself. In addition, they had input from many ITS staff members in order to make the exercise seem real--which it did.

David Cronk, UT Austin's Director of Emergency Preparedness for the University, joined ITS as an observer and shared, “Your tabletop was one of the best I’ve attended in 10 years. My compliments go to the designers and controllers. Keeping people on task and within scope is always the biggest challenge.”

So, special thanks go out to David Cronk, Bob Harkins, Associate Vice President, Campus Safety and Security; Mary Knight, Associate Vice President, Office of the Vice President and CFO and co-chair of the Business Services Committee; James Lewis, Senior IT Manager, College of Liberal Arts Information Technology Services and chair of the IT Architecture and Infrastructure Committee, for their engagement, observations and valuable feedback.

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