OPPORTUNISTIC staff at Freehills eyeing a few unexpected days off work last week as a result of Sydney’s CBD black out, can blame the Millennium Bug for having to return to work earlier.
Situated high in the MLC Tower, one of 50 buildings to be blacked out after an underground cable fire, Freehills has been prepared for the worst since 31 December 1999 when no one was quite sure what gremlins the new century would bring.
As it turned out, no disaster recovery was needed then. But three years later, Freehills’ management breathed a sigh of relief after the very same system prevented an otherwise costly situation during the power cut, which lasted for around 18 hours and also hit fellow law firms Abbott Tout, Henry Davis York and PwC Legal.
“It’s the only real test we’ve ever had,” chief operating officer and partner Gavin Bell said. “Our Freehills batteries kicked in immediately and saved data. A transfer of all communications to our Melbourne office was then arranged.”
Along with an estimated 50 co-workers, Bell was still in the office when lights went out at around 8pm on Monday, 1 September 2003. Power was not fully restored until 2pm the following day, but Bell, well aware that international top-tier practice is today a 24-hour business, could not afford to rest in the meantime.
Back in the office at the crack of dawn, he hastily arranged a set of serviced offices for those needing to work as well as relaying messages to staff surrounding when the power would once again become available.
“By 9am the next day we were getting a variety of messages and the time for the power re-connection was getting progressively later,” he said. “People were coming in with nothing to do.”
It was not until much later that day, when power was finally fully restored, that Freehills was able to discern whether their disaster recovery strategy had worked.
“You never know what’s going to happen until an event like this hits,” Bell said.
Thankfully there was no bad news, with all data having been successfully saved and transferred back to Sydney.
Even the emails remained intact, catching up on a full day’s worth of messages the only likely bright spot for those robbed of the possible bonus of a welcome mid-year break. There’s nothing like efficiency.
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