Aquarius by Jan Trippner

Hurricane Proof Your IT : Protecting your business against floods & natural disasters.

Hurricane Harvey is by far the most powerful gust of wind to have ripped through Texas in living memory, as a Category 4 Hurricane it’s one of the biggest gusts of wind to batter the US for more than a decade.

It’s killed and hurt people, caused billions of dollars worth of damage, left thousands homeless and up to 20 inches of water behind, battering the unlucky with wind traveling at up to 45 mph as a spiteful afterthought.

While it is tempting to write Harvey off as a once in a lifetime creak of nature disaster, flood insurance is increasingly becoming a political issue and climate researchers are predicting that floods and sea level rise will eventually submerge 316 coastal cities, with up to 1000 US cities being partially underwater at sometime over next one hundred years.

Its clear that before our cities are submerged, we will see regular coastal and inland flooding, meaning we have to prepare for these flood scenarios.

If the projections are even remotely accurate, technical infrastructure which is uniquely vulnerable to flooding, datacenters powering critical financial institutions, government and medical services are at risk, as well as the PC’s and servers owned and operated by millions of small businesses.

When Hurricane Sandy hit the US in 2012, it put a number of key data centers underwater and threatened to interrupt nationwide internet service.

Critical IT infrastructure, server and networking equipment was damaged by flooding in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington DC and even though they knew this was coming and were testing generators and backup equipment before the storm hit, it didn’t really help much.

Generators began running out of fuel after a week and data centers had to begin shutting down services and helping their customers to migrate their businesses and workloads to other locations unaffected by flooding.

Diesel pumps fuelling generators became submerged, which stopped fuel being pumped into emergency generators and data centers that operate water coolant systems to cool their server racks ran out of water.

HO1 IBX, an important Houston data center, is still running and delivering services at the moment in the middle of Hurricane Harvey, but a spokesperson said in a statement “The IBX remains open and staffed, however, the streets surrounding us have been closed due to flooding, and the site is not accessible.” They are currently working to make sure that they have disaster recovery plans in place should the flooding prevent fuel deliveries they need to power backup generators if the power cuts.

Lets hope they stocked up on food so the poor sysadmins do not starve.

For small businesses the situation is even more dire, thousands of businesses have been cut off from their employees and because of this, thousands of business are unable to service their own customers affected by the crisis.

It doesn't matter if those services are telephone answering or medical supply delivery, their downtime worsens an already bad disaster situation and makes things measurably worse for everyone affected in this scenario.

If you are in the area affected by Hurricane Harvey I don’t need to tell you this, one look at the media tells you that everything has ground to a halt.

Your staff can’t get to work, there is no power or internet, your office has been mildly flooded and none of the computers work, any one of these scenarios can destroy a business that has not properly prepared for disaster.

How To Disaster Proof Your Business

  1. Get Everything Into The Cloud — Your desktops need to be cloud hosted desktops, so that your employees can work from home and access their applications and data over an internet connection, 4G works great.
  2. Make Sure You Have Plans — Your whole team needs to know what to do should the worst case happen and they cannot get into work, they need to understand how to get the business running again in an emergency.
  3. Choose Your Cloud Provider Wisely — Make sure that you choose a home for your businesses digital assets wisely, pick a datacenter in one of the safest places imaginable and an provider who prepares for the worst with extensive disaster contingency planning and plenty of offsite redundant infrastructure, in case their primary data center site fails.
  4. Make Sure Your Suppliers Are Prepared — Your business cannot function if your key suppliers are out of action, so make sure that the suppliers you choose have themselves prepared for worst case scenarios.
  5. Get Disaster Insurance — Your insurance will typically not protect you against floods, earthquakes and other ‘acts of god’, so be sure to have disaster insurance in place if your business is vulnerable to flooding, which can occur in nearly all 50 states according to FEMA.
  6. Retain External IT Support — If you are like most businesses, you will not have extra staff on hand in case of emergencies, so in the event of a disaster it is wise to have already retained an external IT support team who can augment your existing team and help your customers.
  7. Hire An Emergency Call Center — While your team is scrambling to put your business back together, make sure that your phones are being answered and that important calls are getting through to key people.
  8. Keep Your Fingers Crossed — All you can do is prepare for the worst, hope for the best and remember a meteorite could strike at any time.

Good luck out there to anyone affected by Harvey and if you want to help out in a small way, please donate to All Hands Texas Hurricane Response.

If you think I missed any #ProTips then let me know in the comments and I will update my article crediting your suggestion!

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