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By: Zdenko Kahlina
Welcome to the 2010 version of the DR Exercise!
This was a business trip with the purpose of participating in “Disaster Recovery Exercise” for the company. The objective of the DR Exercise is to confirm that we can recover the identified WCB systems and to confirm that we have accurate and complete documentation for executing the recovery.
Sheraton Parkway hotel in Richmond Hills
We arrived in Toronto at the beginning of G20 Summit and were warned not to go anywhere near downtown. Walking was likely the best way to get around during G20 weekend, so long as we didn’t walk anywhere near the secured or protest zones.
G20 Summit was in Toronto
It was probably best not to be anywhere from King to Lake Shore and Spadina to Yonge unless you absolutely have to: that’s the “Traffic Zone,” where even pedestrians were subject to police checkpoints. And if you do get past, don’t even think about getting over that ten-foot fence that’s protecting the “Security Zone.” Fortunately, we didn’t have to go near downtown, as we were stationed in Richmond Hill and Markham.
IBM building on Steels Avenue in Markham
WCB team: Marlon, Kevin, Meng, Mike, Rod, David and Sunny. Zdenko took the picture.
As usual, our “hot site” for recovery of our computer systems was in Markham (Ontario), where we used IBM’s facilities. For this exercise we have set up primary and secondary objectives and hoped to accomplish as much as possible.
Town of Richmond Hill has population of close to 200,000
There was a lot of parking space available everywhere.
Our DR team was staying in Sheraton Parkway hotel on the north side of GTA Toronto in an area called Richmond Hill. To get there we had to use the Hwy 404/Hwy 401 combo to get there, and therein lies your traffic woes. During crush hour, it can take up to 1.5 hours to drive a 20 minute distance.
People drive expensive cars… but no pickup tracks!
The Sheraton Parkway was a definitely good choice for this business trip. From the time we arrived we were treated with warmth and the staff was very friendly. We arrived at the Sheraton on June 26th (my birthday!) at around 3:30 pm. We received the rooms that we requested, and the rooms were beautiful. I especially loved the beds, the most comfortable I have ever slept on (in a hotel).
On our first night we just took it easy, and went to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Our choice was Italian grill Fazooli’s with a great selection of Italian pasta and seafood on the menu.
Fazooli’s grill: very good food!
Markham is actually one of Canada’s oldest communities. Unfortunately, it was a lot more quaint when it was farmland than now when it has been condo-ized and development-ized to the hilt. Which means it is a desirable bedroom commute from Toronto proper, and now is one of Toronto’s two “high tech” corridors.
The Hilton Suites Toronto Conference Centre & Spa hotel in Markham
Main Street in Unionville, definitely worth a visit
Town of Markham does house the Varley Art Gallery in the deliberately picturesque Unionville, and many of Canada’s Group of 7 lived near there in the old town of Richmond Hill. But it is now a lotta square box Costco-type shopping malls and condos, and unless you have family up there, or work there, it’s not necessarily an interesting destination!
Square box building in Richmond Hill
Another Square box building in Markham on Hwy 7.
Huge apartment building in Markham
Our work was in Markham, so I was commuting between Richmond Hill and Markham every day, which is about 10 minute drive one way. Markham is an unremarkable suburb with all that entails — mediocre chain restaurants. It’s home to a large and wealthy Chinese community, and reputedly some of the best Chinese restaurants in North America. The Times Square Mall close to Sheraton hotel is a good place to start.
Times Square Mall: Chinese Mall in Richmond Hill
Another Italian restaurant in Markham
The area around our hotel (East Beaver Creek and HIGHWAY 7) has a variety of restaurants and bars…. I can tell you that there is a really cool restaurant in the food court at Pacific Mall (Steeles & Kennedy Road) near Markham, called “Fill your bowl” where the chef makes noodles for his soups by hand, the old fashioned way. It’s really a trip to see him twist and whack the dough on the counter. Food is really good too. A soup and a glass of soy milk will run you about $6!
Mainframe team did a great job: Rod, Sunny and Zdenko
For the duration of this exercise, David our DR coordinator, provided refreshments, meals etc. which was a nice company gesture. Work shifts were scheduled to last approximately 12 hours and the whole exercise lasted total of 96 hours.
IBM Facilities for DR Exercise
IBM provided hardware
Over the four packed days, we were testing the emergency preparedness of the WCB to recover from a disaster to the data centre in Edmonton. We have declared an emergency at WCB in Edmonton and now it was time for our team of experts here in Markham to show their strengths.
At the end, the exercise was a total success. Although we did not complete it in the three days we’d hoped, I think we did very well considering these type of exercises never go without unexpected problems. We all did a great job, and returned back to Edmonton satisfied.