It’s hurricane season again… How is your disaster preparedness?

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Hurricane season is upon us, and at this very moment a rather nasty one is heading up the east coast of the United States. Will it continue to the east as predicted? Probably. But that’s not a reason to be unprepared.Take a look this Sample Disaster Protocol and Checklist to help prepare your business and your people.

Going Forward…

IT leaders were reminded by Hurricane Sandy that if they were sure they were aware of exactly how bad things could get, they should probably refrain from making any wagers based on that knowledge.

So, what mindset changes occurred as a result of Sandy? Here are some of the major changes:

  • Keep your assets far, far away

Some companies that had insisted that the best place for a data center is Corporate Headquarters saw things in a different light, or lack thereof, on October 31st, 2012. Some relatively ‘bullet-proof’ self-hosted data centers with battery backups and diesel generators eventually ended up in darkness as fuel tanks ran dry. No one had expected to lose access to both commercial power AND refueling trucks. Remote access to company systems, as a contingency plan, had failed.

Many corporations that would never have considered co-location or (dare we say it?) Cloud Services changed their views. Suddenly it seemed logical to leave the issue of data center uptime to those who do it for a living. Even the SMB market, with as few as 5 to 10 servers has experienced a shift to co-location as a result of last year’s tribulations.

  • Work From Home is good, but Work From Anywhere is better

Work From Home via VPN is not particularly helpful when the home is afflicted by the same disaster that darkens the primary place of work.  (And, as noted above, if the data center is located IN the darkened primary place of work.)

Now, IT departments are stocking cellular wireless hotspots and other gear to be distributed in ‘Go Bags‘ to key workers such as customer service reps. In the event of a regional disaster, a worker need only travel to an area with reliable power to fulfill their responsibilities.

  • IP Telephony really IS useful, especially if it’s hosted elsewhere

Companies that had previously resisted the move to IP based remote phone systems suddenly became aware of the value of such a system. Having this critical asset remotely located (as in a data center) or completely outsourced, like THIS service from XO, THIS one from Vocalocity or THIS one from RingCentral began to make sense.

An increasing number of small and mid-sized companies are making use of  completely virtualized phone systems. The only equipment on customer premises is the IP based desk phone. Phone switch functions are performed by a ‘Virtual PBX’ that can be accessed from anywhere. Further, such services give us something we do not get when we own our own PBX: Service Level Agreements.

The same Internet connection that allows workers to reach company databases remotely can also be used to access an IP based telephony system with a ‘soft phone’ loaded on the user’s laptop or cell phone.

More importantly, your customers will be able to reach you.

In Conclusion…

  • Stay out of the data center business, stay out of the telephone switch business and stay as mobile-capable as possible

A combination of just these three elements, along with a strong Disaster Protocol document, reduces the impact of a regional weather disaster to the extent that customers may remain unaware that anything has gone wrong, or will at least appreciate that your business has taken the proper precautions, labeling you ‘reliable’.

Many other smaller changes have been made to corporate IT, but these are the big three.

So, if we’ve made these changes, is it safe to say that we are prepared for whatever nature throws at us next?

Well… No. Let’s not get silly.