COVID-19 Resources

Protecting Your Company’s Technology Against Natural Disasters [Four Things You Can Do Ahead of Time]

Written by Emily Jones, PMP, CABM, MCITP, Warren Averett Technology Group Director of Operations on June 11, 2020

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This past hurricane season brought some of the most harrowing, widespread destruction the southeastern United States has ever been forced to weather. Unfortunately, the havoc wreaked by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma will produce aftershocks that will echo through affected areas for decades.

The physical damage caused by storms is obvious. What’s less obvious is the effect these storms have on the futures of the survivors and businesses that operate in these communities.

After a hurricane, most businesses near the storm can navigate the task of cleaning up and remodeling following nasty flooding, but if their servers, computers and network infrastructure have been wiped out, recovery can be much more difficult than reconstructing or rehabilitating physical structures. Oftentimes, a catastrophic loss of data will shutter a business for good.

According to Russel Honore, the previous Joint Task Force commander for Hurricane Katrina, 40% of small businesses don’t survive events like hurricanes or natural disasters. A 2010 report by technology research firm Gartner Group stated that 43 percent of businesses went belly-up almost immediately after a “major loss” of data, while 51% shut down within just two years. That leaves a 6% survival rate for businesses that suffer company-wide data loss.

Unfortunately, once a hurricane or other natural disaster is headed your way, it’s likely too late to act to protect your company from the damage that may impact your data, which is why companies should be intentional to prepare in advance and prioritize disaster preparedness, especially when it comes to your company’s technology.

Here are four things to consider ahead of time that can help protect your business and assist your company in evaluating your technology’s preparedness for a natural disaster.

1. Consider Utilizing the Cloud

One of the most effective ways to ensure that your information is protected is through cloud services, and businesses that migrate their data to the cloud could have a significantly lower risk of losing vital data in a natural disaster.

Many businesses use cloud services to become their infrastructure platform or just duplicate their information, infrastructure or software at different sites to reduce the risk of a regional disaster, like a hurricane, causing irretrievable information loss. A typical cloud service will back up your up-to-date data with several levels of redundancy, and most cloud services are actually more secure than their on-site counterparts in general.  Cloud-based infrastructure services are designed to be scalable and secure with adequate redundancy and regular backups.

So, businesses will often use cloud services for their infrastructure or information so that their cloud backup will keep them from losing information and may even handle software, online services and other key business activities during the disaster and the time of recovery to follow.

Transitioning your data storage from an on-site method to the cloud can also significantly lower risk in a variety of other areas as well, including accidents and breaches. A 2012 Alert Logic report stated that “on-premises environment users actually suffer more [hacking] incidents” than cloud-based users, while also being subjected to “significantly more brute force attacks.” With your entire system backed up on a number of off-site locations, it’s much more difficult for hackers to encrypt the entirety of your data and hold it for ransom.

For various reasons, not every business absolutely needs the cloud to stay secure, but it is definitely something that any savvy business owner should examine closely as a potential option.

2.     Evaluate Your Datacenter’s Security

Whether your business builds its own data center (the nerve center for any IT system which carries the hardware that makes the IT run), collocates in another datacenter or uses cloud services, it is important to proactively consider the risks a datacenter faces.

Whether you are collocating your servers in a datacenter or building your own, there are specific disaster preparedness questions to consider.

  • Where does power come from in the case the grid goes down?
  • How many fiber connections does the datacenter have?
  • Does the datacenter have enough diversity to keep the information flowing if there is a major outage?

Answering these questions for your servers and other mission-critical IT assets will help create a better system onsite and a stronger disaster plan.

3.     Formulate and Communicate a Plan

Creating a plan concerning disaster preparedness and recovery, and communicating it before a disaster strikes, is essential.

Your company’s employees and customers may be significantly impacted by any event that shuts down the redundant and secure system you have put in place, so, in addition to a disaster preparedness plan, businesses should consider a disaster recovery plan to implement if a hurricane or other natural disaster strikes.

Equip your team and ensure that your employees understand the proper protocol for how they should respond to a natural disaster—both before and after one may occur. Proper backups need to be offsite, accessible by authorized personnel, and in a format that can be used to quickly get a business running again if the live data is compromised by a natural disaster.

Depending on your business’s needs and preferences, you may also consider electing to use a live duplicate of the system that can take over within seconds if the primary IT is compromised by a disaster. Regardless, it’s important to set forth a recovery plan in conjunction with the precautions that you set to prevent a situation that would require recovery in the first place.

4. Prepare Your Company’s Physical Technology Property

Once you have confirmed that your data is secure, you need to prepare your computers, devices and other appliances.

Record your company’s technology inventory, including the items you have, how you plan to protect them, what your insurance coverage may look like for those devices and if your assets are owned or leased.

To avoid damage that might come from a hard shutdown due to a power outage, consider implementing a scheduled, clean shutdown of your company’s hardware.

If you’re expecting an impending hurricane, unplug devices, printers and other office equipment and wrap them in large, durable plastic sheets to keep water out. You can also protect your business building and technology assets by removing any loose items from walls or desks and placing them in cabinets and drawers. If possible, relocate first floor technology devices, as well as filing cabinets and furniture, to higher ground, or place them on an elevated surface to avoid any flood damage. After securing the inside items and equipment, board your windows and doors with plywood for further protection from strong winds.

Moving Forward with a Cybersecurity Disaster Plan

Considering these elements can help pave the way to effectively prepare your business for a natural disaster and protect your information. Understand the fundamentals, consider your options and make decisions based on what’s best for your business and your people.

The most effective way to withstand a natural disaster is to prepare for it before it happens.

Establish your plan before it’s too late. Your IT provider should be able to help you assess your needs and ensure you’re prepared for any natural disaster. If you need assistance, Warren Averett Technology Group can help you. Contact us today 334.260.2435.

 

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