Minimize data loss from power outages by following these six tips

Researchers from the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security offer recommendations on how to be proactive about minimizing the damage from power failures.


Image: Trioh

IT professionals grab two things when the power goes out: a flashlight and a bottle of TUMS. In spite of their best efforts, data will be lost. And, management's wrath quickly finds its way to the IT department.

Rather than suggest a new UPS or a state-of-the-art backup generator for when the next blackout hits, I'm passing along information I gleaned from the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) report, Power Supply Dependencies in the Electronic Communications Sector (PDF download).

The paper looks at power outages from a risk assessment point of view. The report starts out with authors Christoffer Karsberg, Dr. Konstantinos Moulinos, and Dr. Marnix Dekker announcing their goal of answering the following questions:

  • What will help reduce the frequency of power disruptions and outages?
  • What can improve the electronic communications sector's ability to handle power disruptions and outages?

After sifting through all data relevant to power outages (ENISA tracks power outages in the EU), the authors asked major communications and networking National Regulatory Authorities (NRA) what they are doing to avoid data and telecoms interruptions due to losing power. The report lists the questions asked and which agencies participated.

The authors then worked their magic and came up with recommendations. I studied their recommendations, and there's a lot of good advice that can be added to existing contingency plans to reduce the impact of power outages. I paraphrased the recommendations so they were more meaningful to IT professionals responsible for protecting company assets during a power failure.


1: Analyze the frequency and impact of network and service disruptions caused by power outages and pay special attention to the following:

  • Expected number of service disruptions within a given time frame;
  • Length of these service disruptions;
  • Impact in terms of number of users and services affected; and
  • Severity of these incidents, distinguishing between degradations and full outages.

2: Collaborate with providers to collect good practices that can be used to better survive power outages.

3: Perform a risk assessment, including a cost-benefit analysis, to determine what is reasonable to expect from providers (power and services) during power outages.

4: Check existing protection measures regularly to avoid or at least reduce network and service disruptions from power outages. (The report emphasizes the need to consider employees who work offsite.)

5: Review network and service issues caused by power outages in order to avoid or reduce the impact of the next power outage.

6: Establish cooperation between power companies, internal departments, and remote service providers upon which the company is dependent. 

Join the discussion

Are there tips that you would add to this list of recommendations? If so, please post them in the discussion.