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Thu, Oct 28, 2004

Air Routing International Implements Aggressive IT Redundancy Campaign

More Secure Flight Handling?

Air Routing International, a company that specializes in corporate flight handling for the business aviation industry, is implementing an aggressive IT redundancy program to ensure that critical corporate data, client communications, and productivity remain intact during events such as natural disasters, network outages or sabotage.

"Because we're running a 24/7 critical operations for flight crews, flight departments, and clients we cannot afford to go down simply because pilots need information to be able to fly safely," said John Legh-Page, chief information officer for Air Routing. "If we cannot get information to them that means delays. A business trip can be pivotal to the financial health of an entire corporation. The last thing we want are IT problems.

"We always have a primary and backup for everything that we do because you can't live in the world today and not have things go wrong. What we try and do is minimize the impact when things happen so that nobody feels the pain."

Legh-Page said few companies in the corporate flight handling industry are as proactive as Air Routing in implementing an IT redundancy program. "We maintain a completely redundant system both from a communications and infrastructure standpoint. We basically have two of everything that runs our operation. We maintain two different flight planning systems, two different flight planning vendors so that if one of those vendors is having trouble, we can run our flight plans with the other."

This year Air Routing opened a backup operation center located away from its main Houston headquarters that is redundant will have all the operating systems found at headquarters. "We did this for offsite hotsite redundancy and a disaster recovery capability,"Legh-Page said. He explained that following September 11th Air Routing decided that single building redundancy within its headquarters building wasn't enough.  "We needed to have multiple building redundancy so that in the event of a fire or something else happening in our building that prohibited our entry, we would have our data and operational capability available at another location."

Also this year Air Routing instituted an automated fail-over for Internet connectivity between the two sites so that the websites that run in the main building will fail-over to the backup site.

Legh-Page explained that Air Routing's web servers are clustered and the company hosts over 1,000 custom websites for its clients. "They are load balanced," he said. "If one server goes down then the other one takes over and they basically feed off each other as far as who is busy. The one that is not as busy takes the next call. It is a round robin type load balancing that always runs. That keeps the information flowing to the clients who are coming in across the web. Air Routing's email system also features redundant exchange servers and redundant mail servers so that if one fails the other one takes over thus enabling Air Routing to continue to run its email systems.

Legh-Page said Air Routing uses airline value added networks to communicate to the airport control towers worldwide and to many of its agents located at those airports. "We run with three worldwide carriers AFTN, a direct link to the control towers at the airports; Airinc, the US based airline value added network for messaging worldwide; and CITA, the European based airline messaging system worldwide. Those companies compete head to head for message traffic and we keep connections with all three. If one is down we can still communicate via the other to the same locations."

Legh-Page also pointed out that Air Routing uses two carriers for voice communications with one going out through an underground fiber connection from its headquarters building and the other going out through the building roof in a wireless format.

"If the underground fiber connection gets cut along the street and phone calls come in, they automatically get rerouted to our wireless connection,"Legh-Page said. "We maintain contact with our clients either way. It is an automated system so that we are off line only for a few seconds or a few minutes depending upon what system goes down."

Legh-Page said that Air Routing loses power in the building and the lights may flicker once or twice a month and that is to reboot computers. "Because we have battery backups and generators that are independent of the building's systems that run our systems, we do not ever lose power. We don't ever reboot. Our PCs and data center have run non-stop for the last 10 years without any outages."

Air Routing tests the redundancy systems every month. "We test our systems on a monthly basis whether we want to or not," said Legh-Page.  He said Air Routing often provides clients and prospective clients with the company's service level agreement that explains how Air Routing sets its IT redundancy program.

A tremendous value added advantage Air Routing has is its association with Air Security International, according to Legh-Page. "Because we have Air Security International on-site, we have an insight that our competition doesn't have about what the possibilities are as far as disasters occurring. With this on-site capability this security group is always analyzing what is going on. Then they decide there are risks that we are not willing to take that would affect our clients and our operations.

While IT redundancy should be commonplace in the flight handling industry that isn't always the case. Earlier this year another flight handling company lost its Internet connectivity for a while when a cable was cut. This meant its clients could not receive data for several days including email. They could not get to their websites and were completely isolated. The company had to revert back to voice and fax for their communications.

FMI: www.airrouting.com

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