Hurricanes in Houston happen from June to November but storms can happen yearlong.
After Harvey hit Texas, if a business owner did not have a hurricane preparedness plan then, they do now… or should have one now! However, many business owners are still lacking a plan to protect their business’ IT infrastructure and business data. Hurricanes may happen between now and November but damaging storms happen year round.
As a benefit, we are sharing some of our experience to offer the best practices to help businesses better prepare for this hurricane season.
Prepare Your Plan
Create your Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery plan before a disaster happens. Even if you have a Storm Preparedness plan, it should be reviewed at least yearly.
- The Business Continuity / Disaster Recovery Plan: Each business should invest in a Business Continuity Plan that should identify what risks a business may encounter, and what response should be taken, given the disaster, to ensure the business can continue during or after a storm event. A Disaster Recovery Plan will list the steps needed to recover your IT operations fully.
- Company Response Team: Choose your Company Response Team for your company to coordinate and communicate the critical aspects of business during a disaster. Typically you will have a leader and a few that will have the responsibility to coordinate the company’s actions during a crisis which may include the communications to employees, vendors and clients, the termination or migration of the company’s operations to the recovery site or staff.
- Communication Methods: Choose your communication methods to use during a disaster. Cell phones are often down or limited to texts during storms. Emails will be difficult from cell phones and home data connections when a storm is in the area. Choose two or more methods to communicate in case one method is down. Walkie Talkies are useful when trying to communicate within a building during a power outage.
- Educate Employees: Train and set employee expectations with the identification of your Company Response Team, the communication methods and what is expected of them during a disaster if there the company will try to operate in part or in full during a disaster. Put the employee expectations and training materials on the company internal website or on paper they can carry during a disaster for access.
- Recovery Site Identification: It is always best to identify an alternative location to recover your business IT services after a disaster has forced an abandonment of your current business location. A location outside of the potential affected area at a data center or a temporary office space are often chosen prior to a disaster.
Water damage with hurricanes or storms are especially a risk to IT systems, so, a number of steps will relate to protection against water damage.
- Place workstations and smaller IT devices like printers upon higher storage locations in a business above the possible flood level.
- Secure and anchor the rack mounted IT hardware in case a wall is blown in and wind damage is possible.
- A feature of some IT devices is that they automatically power on if the grid comes back up. It is best to unplug all equipment or disable the equipment to avoid damage from shorts if the equipment is water laden.
- Cover the windows with plywood on the exterior building areas near the critical IT systems that you are unable to relocate, including networking appliances, servers and large scanners, copiers and printers.
Having your data backed up and offsite are crucial for disaster preparedness. If your data is backed up but not stored offsite, a disaster may trap the heart of your business within a building you cannot access due to the storm’s water or by police.
Crescent IT Systems recommends the local data backups be encrypted and to utilize cloud-based backup systems. Keeping backups in a safety deposit box was thought to be a safe location for backup media until Harvey hit Houston and many banks’ safety deposit boxes were not water proof, or the affected banks were closed for weeks due to water surrounding the banks.
It is prudent to keep critical business data with insurance, financial, operations, employee information or other critical operations information with the owners or managing employees in the form of USB drives or paper to be able to continue operations while your IT infrastructure is offline.
Going Further on Business IT Disaster Preparedness
There are many critical factors that need to be considered in preparing and surviving disasters. Statistics state that up to 1 of 4 businesses may close and never reopen with most major disasters. Having a plan, and backups of the heart of your business, your data, is the key to recovering quickly from a disaster.
Crescent IT Systems has been providing stress-free IT to its clients for over 24 years. Contact us today for your FREE IT Technical Assessment that will help identify if you are prepared for a disaster as well as be a technical roadmap for the future.