It’s June, and you know what that means.
Beach days and barbecues? No, unfortunately, we’re not here to celebrate the start of summer. There’s another — much less pleasant — season afoot.
For the next sixth months, businesses operating along the Southern and Eastern Atlantic coast will hold a collective breath. And for good reason. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), hurricanes are the deadliest and most costly type of weather disaster, responsible for nearly $1.1 trillion in damage since 1980. In 2021, there were 20 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters, which, at the time, marked the seventh consecutive year of 10 or more such events in the U.S.
Here’s the good news (if you want to call it that): The forecast for 2023 appears less active than in years past. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service, is expecting a near-normal year of hurricane activity. In its annual outlook on the Atlantic hurricane season, which extends from June 1 to November 30, NOAA predicts a 30 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 30 percent chance of a below-normal season.
So what’s the bad news? Well, all it takes is one well-placed storm to seriously distrupt your business. According to NOAA, even with near-normal activity, we can expect 12-to-17 named storms, five-to-nine hurricanes, and one-to-four major hurricanes. Yeah … not great.
For those of us in coastal or near coastal regions — yes, that even includes 11:11 Systems, which has an office in Houston, TX — now is not the time to pull a Han Solo. By that, we mean, simply saying, “Never tell me the odds” is a business continuity strategy best left to fictional space pirates.
Instead, now is the time to ensure that your business is prepared and protected (as much as it can be, anyway) for the disruption and downtime storms can bring.
Dangers of Data Loss and Downtime
Before discussing potential strategies and solutions, it’s important to, first, reiterate just how devastating unplanned data loss and downtime can be for businesses.
Apologies in advance, but … we’re going to tell you the odds.
According to a recent enterprise survey, 91 percent of organizations equated a single hour of downtime to more than $300,000 in damages — an estimation that has only risen in recent years, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and increase in cybercrime.
Sadly, that number is simply too high for most organizations to bear. Of companies that lost their data center for 10 days or more, 50 percent filed for bankruptcy immediately and an astounding 93 percent did so within a year of the incident, according to the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington.
Hurricanes, in particular, are harbingers of costly data loss and downtime. Although they can (and do) devastate entire cities and communities, in most cases, their impact is isolated to specific regions. People and businesses along the storm’s path experience the disaster acutely, but by and large the rest of the world carries on. Callous as it may seem, the competition for clients and business does not cease when your IT infrastructure is unavailable.
Of course, predicting when, exactly, a hurricane may impact your business is impossible. However, if that moment ever does arrive, and a storm floods your data center or you lose power for an extended period of time, the only thing standing between your business and data loss or downtime is a tested business continuity plan. Without one, the consequences, especially in terms of revenue loss, can be dire.
Finally, it’s important to note, once again, that hurricane-related disasters can occur no matter how “active” the season. It only takes one hurricane (or tropical storm) to cripple a business. It is crucial then, that businesses and government agencies along the Atlantic coast are vigilant in their preparation for this and every hurricane season, regardless of outlook.
Recoverability in the Midst of Disaster … with Disaster Recovery
The best way to ensure that your business’ data is secure and easily recoverable if and when disaster strikes is by investing in a disaster recovery solution. Clever name, amiright?
Disaster Recovery, or DR, is an area of security planning that seeks to protect organizations from the impact of negative events, including cybercrime, hardware failure, or natural disasters like, you guessed it, hurricanes. Implementing a DR strategy and solution can enable your business to maintain or quickly resume mission-critical functions once a disaster occurs.
Since no two organizations are exactly alike, it stands to reason that no two DR plans are exactly alike. Whether you’re looking to replicate IT workloads and applications for physical or virtual environments, it’s important to craft a plan and find a solution best suited for your specific needs. When crafting a DR plan for your business, it’s important to ask and understand the answers to question like:
- How much time can any mission-critical functions be unavailable (RTO)?
- How much data can be lost (RPO)?
- How much money will it cost our organization (per hour) when the mission-critical services are not available?
Many businesses choose to embark on this DR planning and implementation process in the cloud by enlisting the help of a cloud services provider. For example, American Fire Systems, Inc. (AFS), a fire protection company contractor in Texas, and current 11:11 Systems customer, decided to do just that after an uncharacteristic ice storm caused power outages across the state. With the company’s headquarters in Houston — the site of Hurricane Harvey in 2017 — Steve Broeder, IT manager at AFS, also knew firsthand just how important maintaining business continuity would be in the wake of another major hurricane.
“Redundancy for our power and systems was our No. 1 priority when exploring a move to the cloud,” said Broeder. “When an ice storm caused rolling blackouts across the state back in February 2021, our Houston office went down, which meant our whole system went down. Luckily, it was an event that impacted the whole state, so our other offices were shut down as well. But thinking about the future, we couldn’t risk breaking our business continuity across all our locations in the event of a hurricane or some other disaster in Houston.”
Last summer, we held a webinar, titled, “Tales from the Disaster Recovery Front Lines,” which outlined the story of another 11:11 Systems customer who actually made use of their DR solution in the wake of a hurricane. With a storm bearing down on their headquarters along the Gulf Coast, the customer decided it was better to be safe than sorry and initiated a DR failover to the 11:11 Cloud before the storm hit. Thankfully, they were able to maintain data security and availability despite losing power for a period of time. (You can hear their story in full by listening on-demand!)
Preparing your business for disaster events, like hurricanes, begins with combining the right people, processes, and technology to ensure a quick and successful recovery. For more information on how 11:11 and our team of experienced disaster recovery engineers can help keep your business safe this hurricane season, check out our new 2023 hurricane season infographic or contact us directly.