In Part 1, we discussed putting together a hurricane plan for your personnel and ensuring that you keep an open line of communication with emergency services organizations, local businesses, and vendors. Here in Part 2, we will take a look at hurricane preparedness from a business IT perspective. It is imperative that you also develop a plan to ensure that your systems and records are safe and backed up.
5 Steps to Prepare Your Business Before a Hurricane
- Meet With Your IT Team
Before creating a plan of action to ensure that all your documents and equipment are protected and backed up, you want to meet with your IT team (or a managed IT company) and brainstorm about best practices. They can provide valuable insight regarding how best to preserve business continuity and make crucial resources available.
During a hurricane or any natural disaster, you want to:
- Minimize disruption of business operations
- Lessen the risk of delays
- Ensure a high level of security
- Establish reliable backup systems
- Restore operations as quickly as possible
Although your IT team likely has a system in place to back up all documentation, you want to make this a priority before addressing anything else. In addition to digitally backing up documents and files, you want to make sure you have hard copies as a means to safeguard yourself. If your office is flooded or damaged, hard copies that are stored offsite can ensure that you have some form of documentation you can access; that is, unless there are legal aspects that require you have to keep certain types of documents on site.
If you are forced to operate during a storm, you want to make sure that you have uninterruptable power supplies connected to your computers and vital electronic devices. They can help flatten out incoming power and protect against surges, and if you do lose power, they can provide time to save and close any important programs. If you have to evacuate the office, you can simply unplug your computers. If you use an offsite server, you will want to coordinate with your provider regarding a plan of action.
Many networking devices and servers are designed to reboot or power back on in the event of an interruption of power. If there is water present when this occurs, it will cause a serious short in the electricity. Best practices dictate that you power down these devices manually to bypass the restart feature.
As mentioned, you want to digitally backup your documents and files, but it is also a good idea to back them up via a cloud storage service. Even if your server is offsite, you should make sure it is not in a location that could be affected by the same hurricane.
Flooding is often the worst effect of a hurricane, so if you are in a location that is prone to flooding or on the first floor, make sure your computers and electronic equipment are stored at least a few feet off the ground. It is also a good idea to cover items with waterproof tarps and coverings to ensure that leaks do not damage your equipment. Finally, if high winds could affect your office, move equipment away from windows to lessen the chance of being damaged by rain or debris.
If it is not possible to relocate certain elements of your IT infrastructure, such as servers, networking devices, large printers, etc., you can reduce the chance of damage from water and debris by covering windows that are located close to these items.
If, however, windows are breached during a storm, heavy winds may cause a great deal of harm to your system. When possible, anchor your equipment, such as rack mounted hardware, to provide protection from wind.
As with your general hurricane plan, you will want to document and test your business infrastructure plan in advance. This will help ensure that things go smoothly during an actual hurricane. Being prepared will not only save you time and money but could also save your business.