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After Sandy, Tech Businesses Struggled with Data Failure – How to Keep Your Company Safe

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No power and a lot of water. What could bring more worry to companies that rely on technology to run? Of all the events that brought on the perfect conditions for mass data failure, Sandy is the worst in memory. According to CNN, Sandy caused power outages across 15 states, affecting nearly 7 million customers. After the storm, when power was back on and the debris was picked up, tech companies realized some glaring mistakes in their disaster preparedness plans they won’t likely repeat in the future.

The Aftermath of Sandy

SAP’s Heather McIlvaine looked long and hard look at what Sandy did to tech businesses in Manhattan. I cringe to read her introduction: “Looking back, the mistakes seem so obvious: data centers located on a low-lying island and back-up generators kept in basements.” Wow. A generator flooded by water won’t do you any good, now will it? In fact, building data centers on low lying land at all seems like a terrible idea. Clearly, no one imagined a storm like Sandy could cut power for so long or bring so much water.

Some companies got through by the skin of their teeth, using any means necessary to stop a data failure. Consider the dramatic story of Peer 1 Hosting: with a generator and its fuel tank stored in a flooded basement, employees and their customers valiantly fought to bring bucket after bucket of fuel up 17 flights to the top floor where a second backup generator could keep them running. Somehow they succeeded and remained online through the storm.

Many others weren’t so lucky, as they simply couldn’t get fuel to their generators. According to McIlvaine, many companies were misled by failed sensors that mistakenly registered plenty of fuel. Some had stale fuel that failed to power their generators. Others had neglected their fuel stores for so long, the fuel had become contaminated and unusable. And these companies couldn’t just go out and buy more fuel, even if their generators weren’t under water, because during a massive power outage like that, fuel is in exceptionally short supply.

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The Likelihood of More Big Storms

Sandy isn’t the last. Yet somehow, there are still those who downplay the seriousness of climate change and its connection to severe storms like her. In 2013, NASA published a seemingly irrefutable study showing that 97 percent of climatologists agree climate change is a manmade problem. Yet just last month, Rep. David Schweikert [R-AZ6] submitted a bill, H.R. 4012, or the “Secret Science Reform Act of 2014.” The bill wants to force the EPA to release climate studies before recommending changes based on the data. The proposed bill alleges that EPA data is not transparent or reproducible. The NASA statement and this bill seem so at odds with one another, you might wonder how I can be so sure about future storms like Sandy.

Well, we all know that those with a financial stake in the damage caused by climate change, namely insurance companies, aren’t biased by political beliefs. They want to profit. And the largest insurance companies, with the most at stake, believe wholeheartedly that manmade climate change will bring stronger storms.

Eduardo Porter of the New York Times cites increasing losses for insurance companies and an unquestioning attitude about global warming among them. Peter Höppe, head of Geo Risks Research at Munich Re, one of the largest reinsurers worldwide, told him, “Numerous studies assume a rise in summer drought periods in North America in the future and an increasing probability of severe cyclones relatively far north along the U.S. East Coast in the long term. The rise in sea level caused by climate change will further increase the risk of storm surge.”

Preparing for the Next Big Storm

So, we can safely assume that storms like Sandy will confront us again. Learning lessons from the less fortunate can save technology companies from financial and reputational losses. Use the following steps to create an emergency plan that will protect your business from data failure due to extreme weather.

  • Know the Risks – Arm yourself with information about the risks you might face before disaster strikes. If your building is in a low-lying area, take precautions against flood by moving disaster recovery equipment to a higher location. Take steps to address the risks of power outage to your hardware, applications, and data. Be sure the computer room has a secure backup power source and fresh fuel.

  • Know What You Have – Companies need a detailed accounting of the hardware, software, and data they have. Know which of these resources you need to be up and running again as soon as possible. Have backup systems in place that will make these primary systems quickly accessible.

  • Create a Plan – When you know the risks to your hardware, systems, and data, you can put in place a written business continuity plan that strategizes how the company will keep running without power and other resources.

  • Practice – To make sure this plan works, put it into practice. Shut off power to the building and see how quickly your team gets everything back up and running. This is a good time to check fuel supplies and confirm the condition of your stored fuel as well.

Ready.gov notes that, “Data backup and recovery should be an integral part of the business continuity plan and information technology disaster recovery plan. Developing a data backup strategy begins with identifying what data to backup, selecting and implementing hardware and software backup procedures.” We couldn’t agree more.

Quorum has the backup solution to help you recover from disasters like Sandy. Our recovery solutions maintain all your critical systems and allow you to recover with a single click if your site ever goes offline, reconnecting your users to their data and application within minutes. Use our contact form to request a free quote.

 

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