Protecting Your Business Technology in Hurricane Season

Protecting Your Business Technology in Hurricane Season

Every year, the Florida business community must gird itself for hurricane season, a significant trade-off for living in a uniquely beautiful state.

Since 1980, the total cost of damage done to coastal Florida by storms has totaled $450 billion in total, with Hurricane Ian alone doing over $100 billion, the costliest disaster in the history of Florida’s history.

As we approach storm season, the team at LNS Solutions thought businesses in our area would benefit from a checklist that helps them take stock for the best practices around disaster preparation and review what they should be doing to protect to minimize downtime that storms cause this year.

Becoming Proactive About Hurricane Protection

The single best thing a business can do to protect itself is take the threat seriously and start the planning process now, before hurricane season starts.

1 - Inventory Your Network
Start by creating a detailed list of all the devices connected to your network. The inventory serves the dual purpose of helping you understand your areas of greatest vulnerability while also helping you successfully file any insurance claim for damaged hardware, if the worst were to occur.

2 – Devise an Escape Plan for Portable Equipment
It’s relatively easy to secure personal computers, workstations, and company mobile devices during a hurricane. The forewarning should give you enough time to power those devices down and move them out of your premises to a safe location.

Deal with any technical hurdles you might face during that process now, which include who’s going to disconnect and move their devices and which safe, inland space they can bring them to wait out the storm.

3- Secure Servers and Immovable IT Infrastructure
For systems that cannot be moved, you can improve their chance of weathering a major storm with the following guidelines:

  • Wind can cause huge damage in the opening hours of a storm, but most of the damage that a hurricane causes is in the flooding that lingers in the hours and days after the storm passes. This map from FEMA will help you analyze your company’s flood zone risk.
  • When possible, place critical systems in the middle of a room or floor away from windows.
  • If that’s not possible, place ground floor systems elevated at least 18 inches off the ground to help mitigate the risk of flooding. Disconnect the uninterruptible power supply (UPS) or batteries as the storm draws near. The lithium in batteries is flammable and could become dangerous if exposed to water.
  • Cover your computers and devices with plastic sheeting, and document everything with photographs.
  • This is a good time to ensure that the building’s safety systems are functioning properly.

Beware of what’s known as “optimism bias” in the behavioral sciences field. “I’ve been lucky so far” and “It won’t happen here” are all versions of this bias, which can be enormously costly if a disaster does strike. Assuming that your business is vulnerable saves your stress and expense.

According to the Uptime Institutes 2021 Annual Outage Analysis, 40% of business interruptions or outages cost between $100,000, and $1 million.

Disaster Recovery Systems

Strong backup and disaster recovery (BDR) planning is crucial for businesses under any circumstance. For businesses in Florida, it’s even more important that you have a functioning, tested system in place to help you recover sensitive data after a disaster.

4 - Start with the 3-2-1 Backup Strategy
The 3-2-1 backup strategy says that you should have 3 copies of your data (production and two backups) on two different forms of media, with one copy stored offsite.

When working with your cloud backup, pay attention to the vendor and ensure that the data centers that your backups are being stored in a stable location outside Florida so that your data is safe there no matter what happens.

Some businesses may want to move beyond just a single backup in the cloud, so speak to your vendor and make they provide an acceptable level of redundancy on their systems. Security-minded businesses will build even further protection into their strategy by replicating their backups to two providers.

5 - Test Your BDR System
The ability to backup data isn’t what’s going to save you from the next Hurricane Ian, it’s the ability to restore that data quickly and use those backups to restore operations at your business. We’ve seen too many businesses neglect their BDR plans, only to find that when they need them most, they’re not working as well as they need.

When testing your BDR solution, here are some things to look out for?

Build and Test Your Business Continuity Plan

How long can you go without serving your customers before the damage this downtime causes becomes permanent?

Answering this question will help you guide your business continuity strategy and set appropriate goals. For example, small professional services firms may be able to tolerate a day or two of downtime as they get their technology back to operational, while midsized financial service firms and healthcare providers often have only minutes or seconds to spare before they fall afoul of regulators or experience a significant loss of reputation and money.

To help mitigate this, you’ll need not just a plan for recovering your technology after a hurricane strikes but for keeping your team productive through a hurricane. This is known as a business continuity plan, or “BCP.” There are several steps in the continuity planning process, including the following:

  1. Identify critical systems
  2. Business impact analysis
  3. Develop continuity procedures
  4. Communicate
  5. Test & Train

There are important differences between business continuity and disaster recovery, though they’re often confused. For more information about what each of the steps in the BC process means, we encourage you to read this in-depth guide, which will help you understand the entire process.

Weather Hurricane Season with a Veteran Technology Partner

For 30 years, the LNS Solutions team has been helping businesses through Florida achieve maximum stability in hurricane season and beyond. If your business could use a partner to help build disaster-proof IT, contact our team any time at (813) 393 1626 or info@lnssolutions.com. We look forward to speaking with you!

 

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