Disaster recovery: How to protect your systems from flood threats

Mike Talon offers tips on preparing your data center for a flood disaster and recovering from a flood event.

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Continuing with this month's theme of natural disaster recovery, this week we look at floods. To date, there are few systems designed to work properly in such adverse conditions; most will short out or have other anomalous reactions to getting wet, much less being underwater. So, once again, you're going to be left only with recovery options in most cases.

Preventive steps

Backing up and/or replication of data to an off-site location is mandatory here, just as it is for most Disaster Recovery (DR) operations. This is a great first step to be taken, and generally a cost-effective method of protecting your organization. Off-site storage of the data is just as important as the backup itself, particularly if you live in a flood plain. In the case of floods, the disaster tends to be far-reaching, affecting entire groups of buildings or even cities. Since any tapes or other backup systems located within the flood zone will be either inaccessible or possibly damaged or destroyed, keeping the tapes and other systems in the same physical location as the protected systems is inadvisable.

Flood disaster recovery

Recovery will be a two-phased approach in the case of a flood. Immediately, you may need to restore data and/or fail over data systems to another location. This should be judged based on the priority of the data in question and how long the company can go without having access to it. Keep in mind that your employees in the same location will have left the area, and therefore don't have access to their terminals and workstations, giving you more time to restore operations. Once you've found where you will restore to (a step that can be planned out well beforehand), you can then get in the required hardware, set up your systems, and restore the data. Often, you can have secondary systems read to go at another location, or have hardware manufacturers ready to ship express to your new site.

If your backup/failover plan wasn't leakproof, there are also professional data recovery services available that specialize in restoring data from damaged hard drives—including those exposed to flood, fire, and even mudslides.

Putting it all back together

After the restoration and recovery in the short term, you will need to determine how you will restore moving forward. Unlike fire and other disasters, floods often leave behind the basic infrastructure after the waters recede. It's entirely possible that you can return to your old offices and begin to put things back together again. While most of your equipment will be a loss, you may be able to salvage anything that was above the water line when the flood came and went.

In addition, you will need to decide if you want to replace the damaged equipment with new supplies, or if you would prefer to move your secondary equipment into the primary location. If the flood did destroy your primary location, you will have to determine where you will rebuild—which is generally a decision not left up to the technology staff. Once the decision has been made, however, the technical personnel will have to find a way to get the data systems up and running in the new location with as little down-time as possible.

Flood waters come and go, and leave devastation and destruction in their wake. Preparation and backup are your two greatest weapons to battle back against a rising tide.