How to keep network risks from disrupting your club's business
By: Al Valente
his year marks the 30th anniversary of e-mail
and the 10th of the World Wide Web, and, by now, this dynamic electronic duo has become a key component of the operation of most IHRSA facilities. Given the critical importance of remaining "connected", it's wise for clubs to do what they can to eliminate or minimize downtime.
"E-mail has improved our productivity so much that we're able to function with a leaner staff", notes John Marchetti, the vice president of administration and finance for the Alaska Club chain, based in Anchorage. "But, because we've come to rely on it so heavily, if our ability to e-mail were interrupted, it would definitely have an unpleasant impact on our business."
Like many other clubs, the Gainesville Health and Fitness Centers (GHFC), based in Gainesville, Florida, are increasingly network-dependent. The three-site chain employs standard e-mail via the Internet, and, explains Mike Kline, the chief information officer, has recently added an Intranet (a secure internal Web) to enhance communication among the locations. Here are three areas of exposure that should be addressed:
1. Risks from spontaneous failures of hardware or software: Data and information are corporate assets and should be protected as such. So forget what you learned in high school English - redundancy is a good thing. AT GHFC, Kline hosts his own website in-house; has a high-end server with total redundancy; and in the event of a failure has a second unit to keep things going. He also does a full nightly backup and stores the media off-site; if the entire systems were to crash, Kline could simply pick up a spare server and reload his applications and data.
2. Risks from hackers, viruses, disgruntled individuals: "Viruses are the biggest hassle," observes Marchetti, "Our systems administrator spends a lot of time downloading the latest virus updates and remotely installing them on all our PCs" Hackers are another real hazard; a recent national survey suggests that up to 23% of all Websites have been accessed illegally. A club's e-mail and web servers should be protected by firewalls, special devices that prevent unauthorized intrusion. Because such illicit entries are often initiated by insiders, the servers should be kept in a lock area and access passwords changed frequently.
3.Acts of God (fire, storm, earthquake) and man (terrorist attacks): Although blocks away form Ground Zero on September 11, Crunch Fitness based in New York City, felt the impact of the attack, "We lost our high-speed T-1 line connection to the Internet for almost 2 weeks following the World Trade Center disaster" explains Roger Harvey, the company's chief operating officer, "but because we had a redundant DSL line from a different vendor, we got though with minimal disruption to our business."
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