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Protecting IT Assets From a Hurricane: A How To Guide

Zetta Offers Reliable Offsite Backup During a Disaster

by Nick Mueller,

When the local news starts reporting that a tropical storm or hurricane will make landfall near your town, do you know how to protect your company’s IT assets?

If you do, congrats! This post isn’t for you.

If not, here are some suggestions.

A Weather Warning Is When You Implement The Plan, Not Start It

A hurricane — or a similar event, like the June 29, 2012 “derecho” that slammed the eastern United States can strike without warning.

“In the greater Washington, D.C. area, where I live, the derecho was so rare and so violent that no one saw it coming — the emergency alert system only issued warnings half hour after the event had passed,” said technology analyst Wayne Rash, who wrote up the event and its impact on IT in eWeek. “I don’t think anyone could have planned for something this violent and this fast.”

An event like this doesn’t just take out power or connectivity. High winds and flood-level waters also damage entire buildings, while downed power lines and blocked roads can prevent or slow down repair activity – including the delivery of replacement hardware and appliances in the following days.

“The effects were devastating,” said Rash. “It took out just about every data center in the area — including Amazon. The power was out, as were phones, Internet, cell service even the water and 911 system went down.”

In other words: To be ready, you need to plan ahead — and also to be prepared for your best plans to not necessarily be good enough.

Here’s some a starting point for what SMBs and remote and branch offices can be do to protect IT assets.

How To Prepare

Preparing for a weather event, like any project, involves a mix of assessment, plans and lists, policies and procedures, gear, training and practice.

Know Your Location:

What events are you vulnerable to? Are you on a flood plain? How high above ground level is your IT gear and cabling? How much weight or wind can your building’s roof, windows, and walls sustain? Are there large trees that could fall on your building, and if so, what’s the condition of their root system?

Inventory and Prioritize Your IT Assets:

Getting an inventory is easy — and you should already have one, for accounting and insurance documentation.

Next step: Prioritize which applications you would like to keep up, if possible, and which hardware you are most concerned about protecting. (Almost all hardware can be replaced — but some might not be quickly available, or not in the same model and configuration.)

For now we’ll assume you’ve already protected your data with offsite backup.

For many SMBs and others, points out Beth Cohen, Senior Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, this won’t be a problem. “Many SMBs don’t have local servers any more, and are using cloud-based services instead. For them, their primary assets will be client machines — desktops and laptops.”

For companies using local servers, “See if you can move them to the cloud, at least as a failover option,” suggests Cohen.

Also, urges Cohen, “Make sure all your employees have methods of accessing systems for telecommuting access.”

When you do get a weather warning, “Get system images, turn them off, unplug their power and network cables, bag them to make them as watertight as possible, and put them as high above the floor as possible so they don’t get flooded,” says Cohen.

Additionally, look for ways to remotely access your data for administration and management. And have some spare systems, like a laptop or two, so you don’t have to wait for replacements — which can take longer when the roads are out and public safety remains the top priority.

Data Recovery Is The Real Goal

“Barring specialty stuff, hardware is a commodity, which can be insured and replaced,” Cohen points out. Unless you need to be able to operate locally — for example, if you provide medical services — planning for disaster recovery through other locations makes the most sense. For example, if you’re in Orlando with backup systems in Atlanta, both sites are unlikely to be impacted by the same event.”

So, while it’s worth identifying physical assets that should be protected, pay attention to preserving or restoring the business services these assets provide. Hardware can be replaced; downtime can’t.

You’ll also want to prepare and plan for what to do during a major event — and afterwards.

For protecting data from major storms offers a 3-in-1 offsite backup, disaster recovery, and archiving solution that starts at $199 a month.

More Stories By Derek Kol

Derek Kol is a technology specialist focused on SMB and enterprise IT innovations.