9/11 Changed IT Too

The ceremonies surrounding the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks brought into sharp relief the changes sparked by that event. Although there had been ample evidence before, that this would be the case, the attack signaled the start of a new war with a new enemy for many, if not most, Americans. Indeed, the destruction of the Twin Towers holds a place in modern American history analogous to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the assassination of President Kennedy. These events marked the ends of old eras and the beginnings of new ones.

Without trivializing its profound significance, in many ways 9/11 marked a new era in IT as well. The most obvious change is that it raised the stakes for disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity. When the World Trade Center was destroyed, so was the corporate data for hundreds if not thousands of companies. If they had not realized it before, CIOs now understood that they would have to build backup systems that could swing into action flawlessly even if their entire company building was destroyed. Very few companies build entire, real-time replicas of their primary data centers in different cities. While it was Hurricane Katrina that drove home the lesson of just how devastating a disaster could be to people and organizations, 9/11 demonstrated this danger even earlier.

9/11 also signaled the rise of the Internet and the Web as primary platforms of communication. With other communication networks disrupted, people took to the Internet to post what information they had. Blogging became an important form of expression and source of information.

And over time, sad to say, the Web became a valuable communications platform for the terrorists as well. Jihadi Web sites were used to recruit new combatants and to communicate with the world. At the same time, the U.S. Patriot Act authorized the United States government to monitor data flows and people without warrants.

Finally, with the disruption in travel and the security procedures that followed, companies began to explore in earnest how to better utilize video conferencing via the Web. Given the option, virtual meetings are preferable to face-to-face meetings, due to the challenges of business travel and demands on workers’ time.

With the release of Mosaic in the early 1990s, the Internet and the Web began to make their way into public consciousness, burgeoning into the Internet bubble of the late 1990s. But it was really 9/11 that marked the start of the Web-centric world we live in now, and data protection has never been the same.