UPS Working To Restore Networks Felled By Katrina - InformationWeek

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UPS Working To Restore Networks Felled By Katrina

Data that UPS employees and customers use to track package status and deliveries depends on communication networks. More than 1 million packages have been delivered using alternate data-transmission methods.

UPS Inc. is still working to restore telecommunications at several shipping and receiving facilities in Louisiana and Mississippi more than two weeks after Hurricane Katrina.

UPS's meteorological team had been tracking Katrina since before it hit land and was able to plan shutdowns at its package-sorting facilities in the storm's path. Still, primary data networks failed at 53 sites across Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Thirty-one of those locations also lost their backup networks.

Data that UPS employees and customers use to track package status and deliveries depend on those networks. "If these locations can't send or receive data, we and our customers don't have visibility into the delivery status of packages," says Jim Medeiros, VP of Shared Services at UPS. "We first needed to reestablish communications, and we've done this with all but four sites that have power."

Information on shipments for every UPS package is stored in databases at a Mahwah, N.J., facility, which is backed-up by a second data center outside Atlanta. Besides allowing UPS to track packages, the databases allow for rerouting as necessary. But the value of those databases is limited if the information stored in them isn't continually updated from facilities across the country.

UPS's telecommunications team came up with a novel idea. They reconfigured routers and switches on voice networks to be used as data networks, and have them dialing out to long distance carriers, bypassing inoperable local phone networks. In a limited number of cases, DSL or cable modems have been brought in.

And, in a handful of cases, UPS employees saved the package data to CDs, drove them to neighboring facilities with network access, and transmitted the information to Mahwah. More than 1 million packages have been delivered using alternate data-transmission methods. As of Sept. 8, UPS still had 25 sites running off voice networks. About 15 sites had been restored to normal leased-lines communication systems. Thirteen were still down; seven due to power outages and six that either couldn't establish voice communications or have unstable data networks. The affected areas are in Louisiana and Mississippi.

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