Four feet of snow in a week might be awesome if you run a ski resort, but it causes havoc if you run a college or university campus. That is just the quandary campus leaders in the mid-Atlantic were dealing with in December 2009.
"We couldn't open campus," says Joy Hughes, CIO and vice president for information technology at George Mason University (Va.). "You couldn't drive around."
In addition to learning it's hard to shift that much snow out of the way, Hughes says they realized Blackboard was still running and faculty members familiar with it were still in touch with their students. "That has led us to ask, 'What is the next step? How can we ensure every faculty member can use Blackboard?' " she recalls.
Ensuring learning can continue in the aftermath of a snowstorm or other natural disaster is a new page in GMU's business continuity plan. Hughes believes it was the existence of the plan that allowed the campus to weather the storm in the first place because back-up servers and generators were already in place.