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Sun 19 Jun 2005 04:00 AM

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Day without power: Businesses count the cost of Dubai blackout

Only firms with separate UPS and generators were untouched by the outage

Businesses in Dubai were last week counting the cost of the June 9 power outage, with some having fared better than others.

Dubai, a major business and tourist hub for the region, was hit by widespread power failures on June 9, caused by a failure in one of the transmission substations at Jebel Ali Power Station. Power went off in homes and businesses across the city after the failure, which happened at 9.47am, taking several hours to be restored.

The phone network was also out of action across the city, with fixed telephone lines down and mobile coverage almost non-existent. Traffic on the roads was also affected with traffic signals being out of action. According to reports, there were a few minor accidents on the roads.

While most companies suffered major disruptions to their operations for those with generators and UPS (uninterruptible power supply) systems at hand it was business as usual. Executives at Commercial Bank of Dubai, for example, said it had not been affected. According to Amir Afzal, assistant general manager of the bank’s IT department, some of the bank’s employees in its head office did not even realise that a power failure swept across Dubai.

“All our systems are centralised so all the systems have complete backup of UPS systems and generators. Literally there was no breakdown. In fact, some people in the head office did not even realise that there has been a power failure,” Afzal said. “There were hardly any delays. No data was lost. Nothing went down.”

“The IT department is covered by a generator and UPS systems so that if power fails, everything, except for the office lights, will remain on,” Afzal explained. “For the rest of the head office, we have assigned a number of workstations in each department to run on generators.”

The power outage caused most businesses to close early. In Jebel Ali, some companies closed their offices after three hours. Most of Dubai Internet City’s tenants left at midday, but according to DIC management, they had steps in place to minimise disruption to business partners and staff. “Generators were put in place to ensure that our internal voice and data networks remained operational. Apart from some lighting not working properly, there were no other major concerns. This included lift management, where no one was trapped or inconvenienced in any way,” DIC said in a statement.

A few companies with offices in DIC did remain operational that day. eHosting DataFort, for instance, was able to continue running core systems for its managed clients, thanks to investments it made in redundant environmental control systems.

“Despite the sudden loss of main power that affected Dubai, eHosting DataFort continued to maintain core systems for its managed clients. All backup systems and procedures were automatically activated and we are pleased to state that there were no major disruptions. However, there were naturally some minor disruptions to internet connectivity due to problems experienced by our upstream internet service provider,” it said in a statement.

APC Middle East’s general manager, Phil Hughes, hoped that the recent mishap would make companies realise the value of a proper disaster prevention scheme.

“The power failure should enable businessmen in the Emirate to learn a valuable lesson. There is a fine line between minimising costs and minimising risks,” Hughes said.

“Many business manager seemed surprise when they lost money. They looked for somebody to blame. They looked for excuses or reasons. In reality, what they had failed to do was to consider their own disaster prevention strategies. They ignored the problem for the sake of saving a few dirhams. The result then is that they lost millions of dirhams in revenue,” he added.

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