Darin Pendergraft is Vice President of Product Marketing, Quorum
Between data breaches that steal customer and employee data, or the latest ransomware attack that demands a massive payout, where do natural disasters fit in to your list of worries for losing valuable corporate data? Mother Nature has an arsenal of weapons at her disposal including massive storms that cause days worth of power outages, floods, tornadoes, or earthquakes that do physical damage to your data center, and lightning strikes that could cause building fires. Those are just some reasons to put them high on your list for a crisis response plan.
Hurricane Sandy did considerable damage in 2012 by causing the flooding of several New York data centers, including servers hosting BuzzFeed, Gawker, Huffington Post, and other sites. A general loss of power in companies all over the area caused outages and loss of connectivity. Earthquakes, hurricanes and other whims of Mother Nature can take down many physical structures.
Even one small electrical fire can be pretty bad. Just ask the state government of Iowa, which suffered a data center fire and ensuing outage in 2014 right when the state had to issue $162 million in payments to employees, vendors and citizens. To add insult to injury, a blizzard was approaching and multiple services were down, including the Department of Transportation cameras that were desperately needed to monitor highways and bridges in the storm.
The main issue at hand is that you can't control any of these occurrences. This isn't like a chess game where you anticipate your attacker's next move and install a new security control to block him. When Mother Nature comes raging through your data center, there's nothing you can do to stop it. You can, however, make plans for continuity and recovery; and there’s several key factors to anticipating and fortifying yourself against the inevitable.
Make a plan - Forewarned is forearmed. Your organization probably has a plan for employee evacuation in case of a fire, so a plan for protecting your data and other assets is just as important. Put together a crisis management team and draft a plan that covers everything from maintaining daily business operations to prioritizing critical processes to possible emergency scenarios and each team member’s response role.
Map out where your data is - Is your data scattered across systems? Where is the most important data? Where do you need to maintain uptime no matter what? These answers can change from year to year, so make sure your team stays current and connected to an accurate overview of your digital assets. When disaster hits, you won’t have time to sort this out.
Inspect your facilities and conduct a risk assessment - Just as your facility must meet fire codes and safety regulations, it needs to meet your own codes of data safety. Is the essential equipment protected? Is the large equipment anchored or stored on lower shelves? Is your electrical equipment elevated to reduce hazards? How secure is the building in general: Could the roof cave in from too much snow? How well would it hold up to a tornado? Each region has its own challenges. Identify your system vulnerabilities, and patch them up as best you can. Once inspected, if anything is not up to par you should seek outside expertise for recommendations to secure your data.
Assess your backup strategy - If your backups are local only, it’s time to consider off-site storage and cloud solutions. One fire, flood or storm could wipe out all of your data otherwise – so invest in a solution that can keep clones of your environment safe in another location. Be sure your multiple locations are disparate enough that they are not sitting in the same hurricane path or on the same power grid. If you’re still using tape backups, determine whether your team would be able to access those tapes in the case of floods, earthquakes and blocked transit routes.
Look for a Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR) solution that offers fast recovery and fast performance, as a severe storm or disaster could keep your production environment down for a long time. Be sure you can not only recover quickly, but offer reasonable speed and performance in the alternate environment. There’s no point in investing in a backup and disaster recovery solution that only offers slow and partial recovery – in today’s competitive world, users and customers will hold delays and lost functionality against you.
There’s no doubt that nature is capricious. Many teams don’t take planning for business continuity seriously, or invest in modern BDR solutions, until they’ve lived through the destruction of a natural disaster. By then, of course, it’s often too late. Only when disaster has hit, and they’re deep in chaos and panic, do they realize the preparation that could have made their IT event into a non-event.
Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Penton.