NFC IT heads back to New Orleans

Editor's note: National Finance Center Director Jerry Lohfink and NFC CIO Gil Hawk offered their experience and lessons learned during a GCN online forum on government continuity-of-operations planning.

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National Finance Center director Jerry Lohfink moved back to his New Orleans office this week, but NFC's data center will remain at its backup location near Philadelphia until a new center is completed in June.

Lohfink and his IT staff, who process about 600,000 federal payrolls, have been working from Philadelphia, Grand Prairie, Texas, and Alexandria, La., since Hurricane Katrina and subsequent flooding drove them from their offices in August. NFC provides administrative and financial services to its parent agency, the Agriculture Department, and other agencies.

'One of the biggest challenges for NFC leadership is to balance service delivery to the customer while providing its employees with the time and support necessary for them to build back their lives,' Lohfink said.

NFC employees will complete the phase-in of returning payroll processing services to New Orleans by Feb. 10, said NFC CIO Gil Hawk, who remains in Philadelphia until next month.

As the hurricane aimed for New Orleans in August, key staff members worked through the night at the NFC facility to complete payroll processing for federal employees so they could receive their paychecks on time, then shut down operations, loaded trucks with 50,000 backup tapes and fled the city for their backup locations.

NFC has disaster recovery subscription services from SunGard Data Systems Inc. in Wayne, Pa., which provides data center services for all NFC business lines and customers.

'We are going to leave the data center in Philadelphia until the cutover to the new data center in Kansas City in June to ensure viability and mitigate risk,' Hawk said.

NFC had planned since early last year to move its data center equipment from New Orleans to Agriculture's National IT Center in Kansas City, Mo., to remove it from the hurricane zone and minimize downtime to customers. NFC will remotely manage the data center from New Orleans and convert its New Orleans center to a backup and disaster recovery operation.

With NFC's data center in Philadelphia, IT staff will process remotely from New Orleans similar to what they will do with the new data center in Kansas City, Hawk said. As a result, about one third of the IT staff will remain at the SunGard location.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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