Major storms can cause major disruptions in your business, especially when it comes to your IT infrastructure. While you ready your home for a hurricane, take the time to ready your business as well.
Storms like Hurricane Florence are especially challenging because of the widespread destruction that they can cause to power grids and telecommunications systems. Hopefully you already have disaster contingency plans in place, but as minimum here are the top 5 things you can do to get ready:
Review Your Business Continuity Plan
Your Business Continuity Plan (BCP) does not have to be extremely detailed, but as a minimum it should document all of the services that you provide to your clients, and the technology that you rely on to deliver those services.
(A really good BCP will document how long you can afford to have a given service down along with a Recovery Time Objective (RTO) - and most importantly, what you have implemented to ensure you meet that RTO.)
Don't have a formal BCP prepared? Just be sure to document your key client services so your IT team knows what to concentrate on first should the systems go down.
Pro Tip: If you do not have a BCP - put it at the top of your 'to-do' list. A good BCP helps you identify your strategic priorities and how to protect them, and is useful even if you don’t face a disaster.
Communicate Your Remote Work Policy
A reminder email from your HR team will help avoid confusion at 7:00 a.m. when the power is out at your office. If remote access functionality is something you use rarely, it’s best to test-drive it now with a number of people to help ensure that it can handle the load.
Check Your Server Backups
Sometimes the worst really does happen and you need to restore your infrastructure from scratch. You’ll want to verify that you can restore from your off-site backups and that those off-site backups are current.
Many of our clients use a hybrid backup option from Datto that backs up both locally and to encrypted cloud storage so that they’re protected whatever happens. If you don't have this type of solution in place, consider having a conversation with us - it's worth it for many more reasons than you might think.
You can read a true story here about what happened to one of our clients who didn't have the right backup and recovery solution in place. Time-consuming and expensive are the watchwords!
Check Your Network Device Backups
Don’t forget to back up your network device (e.g., switches and firewall) configurations as well. Complex configurations can take days to recreate.
Check Your Landline Phone Systems
Many phone carriers will allow you to forward all calls to your phones to a single external number. Check what is required to set this up and work with your reception team to have a plan for fielding those calls if needed.
Pro Tip: Don't have cloud-based telephony? Now may be a good time to investigate the benefits, especially with respect to redundancy, reliability and flexibility.
Additional Tips for Power Loss at the Office
Turn off and unplug computer equipment.
The day before the storm strikes, shut your computers down gracefully and unplug their power connections. Computer operating systems can become corrupt if their power is cut suddenly. Power flickers can also be accompanied by surges that can damage the hardware.
Monitor your on-premises server rooms.
If you have a server room in an office that could lose power, know how long your equipment can run on your battery backup power. Make sure you have a way to monitor if the power goes out and you lose cooling. You might be astonished at how much heat servers generate and how quickly a server room gets so hot that your equipment overheats.
Ntiva deploys inexpensive temperature sensors that have a network connection and automatically alert us if things get too hot. This buys us time to contact building maintenance teams, notify users, and shut down servers before they cook themselves. We test these remote control abilities all the time and so should you.
Shift Critical Resources to a Data Center or Cloud.
With a data center, you can move all of the hardware that you own to a location with redundant power, cooling, and Internet connections. You can manage them yourself, or have your IT service provider manage them for you. Bonus: Your employees could literally work from anywhere if you build in the right remote connectivity.
Cloud platforms such as those provided by Oracle or AWS allow you to eliminate capital investment completely and operationalize your IT infrastructure investment. Another added advantage to a cloud platform is your ability to shift its geographical location easily. If you’re concerned about widespread outages interfering with a North Carolina data network, you can shift your servers to a West Coast facility.
Test Your Procedures.
At a minimum, you should test your business continuity/disaster recovery procedures once each year. We all make assumptions about what works and how a given set of instructions is clear. Testing will make it very clear what works and what doesn't, and you can modify your procedures accordingly.
Use this as a learning experience!
If you’ve ever dealt with a flood, you’ll remember the feeling of sloshing around your server room until the end of your professional career. Use this preparedness check list to flag items that will help you be in a better position the next time a disaster strikes.
If you're an existing Ntiva client, call your CRM for any assistance you feel you might need in advance. Our Service Desk will be up and running as usual: 7x24x365.
If you're not a client but are looking for advice, get in touch with us and we'll see what we can do to help!