In a move to improve business continuity, Republic Services, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has agreed to a five-year $1.3 million contract with AT&T to upgrade its computer network. The Synchronous Optical Network (SONET) will provide a “self-healing” network designed to protect critical applications from being disrupted or degraded in quality because of a loss of signal or transmission impairment.

One of the main reasons for the move, company officials say, is to guard against natural disasters common to South Florida, such as hurricanes. Those disasters can cause extended network outages, which affect the company's other 250 operating locations throughout the country. “The bottom line is that we need to have our systems available to ensure that our customers continue to receive great service that they have come to expect,” says Will Flower, vice president of communications for Republic. “We have spent a good deal of time and money over the last several years upgrading our networks and ensuring that we have an executable disaster recovery strategy..”

To accommodate the new system, Republic has added a second data center in Las Vegas that will back up the primary data center, which is located at the company's headquarters. The new technology provides alternate circuits for communications, meaning if the SONET fiber is cut, the technology's architecture secures a reverse path of data transport so that the information can take an alternate route. In the old system, the main data center served as the lynchpin for the network. Once knocked out by a hurricane, it took hours — or sometimes days — to get the network running again. Flower says in these cases, data would have to be physically moved using tapes.