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Preparedness Lessons from Government Shutdown

Robert White

The thirty-five day US Government shutdown left many GIS data users unprepared for what followed. Only those government web data resources deemed critical to “protect life and property” ran during the shutdown. In many cases, your favorite web stream or download site was shuttered. Presumably many such web streams are built into projects and relied upon by business. Even after the government resumed operations, data resources and normal update plans are lagging and slow to resume.

As map creators, users and consumers, we are used to “instant availability” when it comes to resources such as streaming web maps or instantly downloadable data. When the tap suddenly switches off, users of federal government GIS data are forced to re-evaluate reliance on what was always believed to be a reliable and sure thing.

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here have now been ten such events over the last twenty years, so you can expect one on average every other year, the average length of which has been increasing. Now is the time to take stock of your preparedness plans. Will you need to access important data which may or may not be available at some point in the future? Should you create a preparedness plan to improve the availability, reliability of critical GIS data? Would you use a vendor that almost promises to go offline with little warning every other year?

At WhiteStar, we are proud of our reliability, data creation capabilities and what a small team of people can do over the course of 29 years having but a fraction of the resources of the federal government. Using Amazon Web Services, we provide our clients 24/7 web data download and streaming capabilities using redundant services, and we promise never to be down during a government shutdown. We note that if our government were held to the same standards as private enterprise, it would have been put out of business many shutdowns ago.