Data Centers

10 things you should do to ensure storm readiness

Hurricane, flood, or blizzard: Anticipating the impact and having a plan in place will help your recovery efforts.

Businesses are not always lucky enough to know when a disruption or disaster will strike the organization. So when you are fortunate enough to get some warning, there are a few things you don't want to overlook. I've compiled advice from experienced IT staff who have been through it all — floods, hurricanes, ice storms — and their best advice is included below.

1: Test, test, test

When was the last time you tested your generator? Batteries? Disaster recovery restore process? If you are like many IT pros, those things were tested upon installation and largely forgotten. Time is not always a data center's friend, so don't rely on old tests for setting your mind at ease.

2: Set user expectations

Data center outages aren't the only thing to worry about. Your employees' ability to be productive rests in their ability to access critical business systems. When a storm strikes, mobile devices are often the only mechanism your employees have for communicating with the business. Make sure they remember to take home and fully charge all portable devices before the storm hits.

3: Turn it off

If you don't need a device, turn it off and unplug it. A power surge caused by lightening can wreak havoc on your electronic devices even when they are powered down.

4: Waterproof it

While you can't plastic wrap your entire data center — and trust me we've had fun picturing what it would look like — you can use a waterproof container for spare files you have on CD, USB drives, or even documents printed out at your desk.

5: Prioritize restoration

In the event of a tragic loss to your data center, what systems will you restore first? Have a plan endorsed by your executive committee in advance. It's no fun guessing which urgent request you should answer first during the middle of a crisis.

6: Know your staffing plan

Does your building maintenance staff have a way of getting hold of you? Managing vendor alerts, proactively updating your users, and responding to urgent requests can be overwhelming in a disaster. Be sure you have a game plan and assign responsibilities in advance.

7: Prepare for resilient communications

Text messages and email are often your only communication vehicle in a disaster. Make sure you have access to distribution lists and that your email continuity solution is up and running.

8: Know your insurance coverage

What acts of nature are and aren't covered? Build a list of contact numbers and information and distribute it to the appropriate employees to ensure that everything can be quickly handled in the case of an emergency.

9: Evaluate the size of the plan

Most plans cover situations where a disaster occurs and rebuilding can begin in a reasonable time. What happens in an unreasonable disaster? Disaster recovery plans need to account for hurricanes, floods, and blizzards, which can knock out power and facilities for days and sometimes weeks.

10: Be realistic about system replacement delays

How quickly can replacement equipment be obtained in a regional disaster, when many companies around you may be similarly affected? Incorporate estimated replacement timing into a plan to account for these types of delays.

Mounil Patel is director of sales engineering at Mimecast.

Additional resources

Been through it?

If your organization has been struck by a weather disaster, were you able to bounce back quickly? What other steps would you add to this list?

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