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Nashville explosion exposes weaknesses in IT networks

The bombing disrupted phone and internet service for days after damaging an AT&T building on 2nd Avenue in Nashville, which affected connection points for regional internet services and local wireless, internet and video. The explosion also knocked out some of the company’s backup power generators and disrupted services in Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama.

Some hospitals experienced outages as a result of the incident; Gallatin, Tenn.-based Sumner Regional Medical Center had to revert to paper records when it lost access to its EHR and other operating systems. The hospital’s IT systems were restored by Dec. 28.

Five takeaways for CIOs:
1. IT experts told the Journal that the explosion highlights how a terrorist attack, natural disaster or cyber incident can cause widespread economic damage if it hits a location such as AT&T’s switching station, which can disrupt the central system directing data from users and businesses on telecom systems.

2. Telecom networks in certain cities or regions converge at these types of central offices; and while AT&T said Dec. 28 that it restored most service in Nashville, the incident shows how an issue at one of these physical locations can have a ripple effect across an entire region’s digital infrastructure.

3. The incident “creates an opportunity for all of us to review our backup and resiliency planning not only for our technology and non-office facilities, but also to identify and assess the physical and technological resilience of our critical partners,” Edward Wagoner, CIO of commercial real-estate service firm Jones Lang LaSalle Inc., said in an email to the publication.

4. Businesses must build redundancies into their networks that allow one service to take over if another goes down, and using multiple tech vendors at various levels will minimize risk, according to Vineet Jain, CEO of online file sharing service Egnyte.

5. While networks should become more secure as software replaces physical infrastructure, the shift to “software-defined networking” is only about one-third complete, according to Forrester Research Digital Strategy Analyst Dan Bieler. These systems may be more resilient to disruptions but the timeframe is difficult to predict because deployment varies across carriers. Beckers Hospital Review

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