Preparing Your Business IT for Bad Weather

Working in Florida for half of my IT career has taught me a few things about being prepared for bad weather. I lived through and prepared for 10 hurricanes, 4 in a single year working for the Orange County School Board. Here’s what you as a business owner should be doing to prepare for Florence.

Your bad weather plan should include a business self assessment of the following items; Systems, People & Operations. In IT the first priority is the safety and security of computer operating systems and servers – but more importantly the data and access to that data.

[Systems] You should already have a data backup system that backs up your data offsite. If you do not then you should plan to take a copy of your latest data backups with you the night before the event- be that external hard drives or tapes.

[Structure] Do an assessment of your building. Identify possible issues / dangers to the building such as basements prone to flooding and large pane glass windows that are near sensitive electronic equipment. Look for any possible issues that could be caused by flooding water or broken glass.

[Systems] If you do have workstations that are near external windows, unplug the systems from power outlets and place workstations on the desks. Cover everything with plastic garbage bags to protect them as much as possible in the event the windows are broken by debris. If possible move the systems away from windows as far as possible. If your servers are on the floor get them off the floor. Make sure your switches, firewall and server are safe and dry. The servers, firewall, and switches need to be connected to battery backups. Keep in mind that if these systems loose power and switch over to battery, most will only last 15-30 minutes before shutdown. The servers will not turn themselves back on when power resumes!

[People] Communicate what your emergency operating procedure & hours are to your employees, and to your customers. Depending on storm conditions and the expected damages, you may have to plan on outages of both electricity and Internet connectivity. It may be several days before your business can resume operations – set the expectation ahead of time. Key employees that have remote access to the network should be taking laptops home with them. Even if the Internet is knocked out temporarily at home, you may be able to use a phone hot spot if the business Internet is still up and running.

[Operations] A lot of this needs to be set up ahead of time (VPN’s; Remote Desktop setup), but if you do have remote access to business servers and data this will become very important if city and rural infrastructure sustains heavy damage. If key employees can not safely travel back to work after an event, can they remote in? In other words can you operate on a limited basis for a time without access to your building?

After the weather event, you will need to have a plan for resumption of business operations. A damage assessment and safety of the business structure will need to be done. Power and (in most cases) Internet connectivity will need to be restored before employees return to work. Roads may be blocked or washed out in areas where employees live. Communicate to your staff both ahead of time and after the event what your expectation will be for resuming normal operations.

For questions or concerns about setting up offsite backups, having sufficient battery backups for your business servers, or creating a business continuance plan please contact us at info@CardinalTek.com.

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