How to prepare your business’ IT for a storm or hurricane

Hurricane Florence made headlines across the United States because of both its devastation and the preparedness of the locals affected by the storm. Even weeks after the storm devastated parts of North Carolina, flooding still grips parts of the East Coast and has disrupted businesses to varying degrees.

In some industries, getting back to work means doing things the old-fashioned, manual way. But what if your business has processes that must be handled via computer or across the internet, and can’t be handled by simply mailing or carrying tangible goods?

Contingency plans and agile defenses have to be a part of any business as natural disasters continue on a more erratic, more frequent pattern. Here are a few planning and mitigation techniques to keep in mind as you safeguard your business during a storm.

Prepare For The Worst First: Damage Recovery Planning

There are many ways to prepare for a storm that are the same for any kind of business.

As a business that relies on computers, network devices, and network infrastructure, you need to know how to service and replace devices that are weakened, corrupted, damaged, or completely destroyed during a storm.

Inventory all of your devices, and have a plan for replacement. Each device should have a known supplier for the exact make and model, and you should consider listing known working alternatives.

Your tech may become obsolete according to the market, but it won’t matter to you until a storm destroys something and you struggle to find a newer device that is compatible with your older way of doing things. In case your business goes years without having to replace a specific part, be sure to have an Information Technology (IT) consultant handy to pair your aging tech with newer replacements.

An IT consultant can help you avoid system conflict while mixing new and old equipment, and can also help you modernize your systems over time. If your business operates with no problems until a hurricane destroys your tech investments, a consultant’s post-storm replacement plan can be the easiest way to upgrade.

Storage drives are not the most expensive devices in a tech business’ inventory, but they’re usually the most precious resource. Your data is hard to recover if water damage, electrical damage or fires cause physical damage to storage devices.

The cost of data recovery after physical damage is exceptionally higher than the drive cost itself, and a panicked business can easily overspend while rushing to recover mission-critical files. Be sure to have a dedicated contractor and a known quote for the cost of recovery before a storm.

Setup an offsite – preferably offshore – backup system. There are many online storage options to choose from, but your main concern is choosing an area that is outside of your business area and located in a safe place. It doesn’t make sense to back up your hurricane-prone data in an earthquake or forest fire-prone area.

Getting Online In Emergency Situations

While still devastating and a true hardship for residents affected by the hurricane, the local culture of Hurricane Alley has learned how to do more than just survive or even simply thrive.

Even with national and international aid available if needed, businesses and personal lives have to keep going after the initial shock wears off. What does an internet-based company or a tech-heavy, electronics-reliant business do when there is no power or communications?

First, know your area’s electrical and network paths. As internet access becomes more inseparable from efficient business, it’s time to start understanding infrastructure the same way you’d understand highways and back roads.

When power is lost in the area, check on your personnel and assess the damage. Make sure that the human element is safe, and begin figuring out where your electrical and communication lines have been cut.

Even if line repairs are another company’s responsibility, being aware of the damage location can help you make massive and unexpected gains during an emergency situation. If the power company can’t bring the power up because of limited access or personnel, being aware of the problem area will make it easier to hire a third party contractor that can be briefed on a situation you’ve had time to assess and document well.

If internet access is limited, you may want to figure out what other services are available. Depending on the type of damage, you may be able to send a capable crew of network technicians to trench and service severed network lines – with the Internet Service Provider’s permission, of course.

Storms provide countless opportunities to work around conventional thinking for the sake of recovering during an emergency. Safety comes first, but your business can’t be expected to sit without access to resources for weeks on end without doing something about it.

Before a storm hits, there are a few options to consider for staying powered on and connected after – and sometimes during – the worst parts of the event:

Overhead and underground landline connections. Find out if there are one or more service providers who can provide services for both above ground and underground wiring.

This isn’t always a simple task, as some areas may have rocky or otherwise hard ground that requires special equipment, and some overhead installations may require service trucks that smaller businesses may not have.

Satellite internet. Satellite is usually the last choice if there are no other options because of the latency (delay) of the connection, but it’s a great option after a storm. As long as antenna towers are still standing, there is a way to transmit a signal. There are some wiring areas for towers that could be severed, but they are not as exposed and widespread as a truly landline connection.

Satellite’s weakness would be during a storm, when rain and other airborne hazards can weaken or completely block satellite’s line of sign communications.

Backup generators. Power may be the only thing stopping your business from being productive, and backup generators can deliver the energy you need.

Diesel generators are the go-to choice for most businesses with long-lasting, tested natural disaster and survival plans. Diesel fuel has a longer shelf life than gasoline, and you’ll want to store barrels of fuel that may not be used within one or two years without dumping it all as a waste of money.

Solar power (photovoltaic energy) is an auxiliary option with backup generators and is quickly becoming a standalone option. The problem with solar power isn’t harnessing the sun’s power, but keeping that power on hand. Battery arrays are still bulky and a bit expensive, so solar power is more of a choice for night operations with fewer energy demands.

Contact a business technology and emergency management professional to discuss pre- and post-disaster planning for your tech assets.

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