Hurricane Ian became Florida's costliest storm in history when it touched down in late September. CoreLogic projected the total flood and wind losses across the region to be between $41 billion and $70 billion after the hurricane swept through densely populated areas along Florida's Gulf Coast.
Approximately 2.6 million customers across the state lost electricity in the wake of the storm and more than half a million residents were still without power a week later. Category 4 storms like Ian damage power grids so significantly that the National Hurricane Center warns blackouts can last months.
Natural disasters can strike anywhere. Winter storms caused an energy crisis across Texas in February 2021 that left at least 4.5 million customers without power during the worst of the outages. Wildfire concerns in 24 counties in Northern California, including the San Francisco Bay Area, led to power cuts in October 2020 and in August 2021. About 350,000 customers in greater Chicago lost electricity during a rare November blizzard in 2018.
In all, there were 56 weather and climate disasters in the U.S. from 2019 to 2021 with losses exceeding $1 billion, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Keeping your data secure during a hurricane has always been vital, but it's becoming more difficult as disasters become more frequent and intense. You want to prepare for the worst-case scenario when you're building your disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) plans.
Here are three ways to ensure your data remains protected during a hurricane.
Identify your offsite backup and replication solutionsYou might think having an offsite backup is enough to keep your data secure, but that’s not entirely accurate. If a natural disaster impacts an entire region, your primary data center and backup could be knocked offline within a matter of hours, if not minutes, if they’re in close proximity. That would be catastrophic to your business.
Your offsite location should be far enough away that it would be clear of the disaster. If you're based on the East Coast, you should look for a secondary location on the West Coast — and vice versa. A third location in a different region would offer further protection.
This also applies to your human resources. If your company's physical infrastructure survives a hurricane, that means little if your employees' homes, vehicles or utilities didn't. Geographically dispersing your DR and information technology (IT) teams means disasters won’t impact their ability to perform the recovery.
Putting everything back together after a natural disaster occurs is difficult. Knowing you can protect your data through offsite backups should offer peace of mind.
Perform recovery simulations regularlyFinding out your company's DR strategy was ineffective after a natural disaster strike is a nightmare scenario. That's why the best way to make sure your plans will work is to keep them updated and test them often. Simulations will familiarize your company with what is required for recovery and give it a chance to restore everything.
It is essential to identify which assets your organization can't function without, which tools should be used for recovery and who is responsible for getting your systems running again. You'll also want to know approximately how long it can take to have every system operational.
One often overlooked aspect of DR and BC planning is accounting for any application or major DR-impacting change that’s been implemented since your last simulation. You must have a tight change management process to review any infrastructure- and application-related changes that could potentially affect your DR plan, DR strategy, or DR solution to ensure your plans and procedures are always up to date. Otherwise, you could find crucial components missing during an actual event, potentially leading to catastrophic results for your business.
It's OK if something doesn't go smoothly during your trials. That's why you're running them. That way, you can address any gaps or issues in advance and remediate them so everything will work in a time of need.
Understand how long the recovery process will takeMerely getting back online isn't enough. Your company may have contractual obligations or compliance requirements that require it to be operational at some point after a disaster strikes. If not, profit, competition and other core objectives remain priorities.
Baseline your recovery time objectives (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO) during your simulations so you know when to expect every asset to be recovered. RTO refers to the time between an incident and when your systems are back online. Specifically, it’s how quickly your business must be up and running following a disaster. The RPO is how much data your organization can afford to lose, measured in terms of time.
You can derive those baseline RTOs and RPOs by tracking recovery times during multiple simulations. That will tell you when critical functions will be restored after a disaster and how much data may have been lost. Businesses that define and calculate them now will be better prepared later.
Streamlining the DR process
DR plans keep your business operating with minimal interruption and limited damage to data when natural disasters occur. They require care and consideration, but that will be time well spent when they need to be activated.
IT environments are very dynamic and agile, with changes implemented every week. Sometimes it’s difficult to keep track of these changes manually, and gauge the material impact to DR plans or procedures. Auto discovery and dependency tools can help detect these changes and keep your DR plans updated.
Additionally, it can be cumbersome and tedious keeping track of hundreds of manual tasks during a test or disaster. A recovery orchestration and automation tool can not only help avoid human errors, but it can also improve recovery times significantly by providing the scalability required to recover large and complex IT environments. Managed recovery services can relieve any pressure by guiding your DR and BC procedures.
A lot can go wrong in a time of crisis. You may receive warning that a hurricane is imminent, but some natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tornadoes, happen suddenly. When one hits, you can control how you limit the disruption to your operations and protect your data. Remember, the damage they cause in one location can be significantly different from what is impacted elsewhere. Always hope for the best but prepare for the worst.