In the workplace
Posted on: August 25, 2016
Preparing for the Hurricane | Today and in the Future
Posted by: Phil Stalnaker
I am not originally from Florida; I’m from the land of tornadoes and corn stalks. While I have lived in and loved the sunshine state for many years now, I have not yet experienced a hurricane (and hopefully that still holds true through this next week). The storms in the heartland are vast and powerful, though the danger of the tornado (however violent and devastating as a hurricane) is random and scattered. One house could be totally leveled while the one directly next door is left completely untouched. The nature of a hurricane (from what I understand) is much more direct; an unrelenting wall of storm power that will level everything in its (much wider) path. So while a tornado is like that wide receiver who has such footwork that you never know where they are going, a hurricane is that unstoppable defensive line that continually pounds the backfield.
Please forgive the football references; growing up in a football obsessed state will do that to a person. Besides, we didn’t have anything else to do other than shuck corn. Florida has way more than football! The tropics carry a risk, however, and we need to be prepared to handle those risks. My hometown had a storm I remember (it happened a few weeks after I got married) that carried hurricane-force winds. It blew over trees and power lines, crippling people for weeks. Thankfully there wasn’t nearly as much rain as one would expect and there were no significant flooding issues. A Florida hurricane brings it all. So why am I writing about hurricanes on a business blog at a technology company? Simple: almost all businesses today either totally use technology for their day-to-day operations or hold their critical data on technology.
Hurricane Preparedness for Businesses
Every device that is plugged into a wall or an Ethernet cable; any device that is stationary in an office, or any devices that power on and off are uniquely susceptible to the forces of a hurricane. Lightning strikes can flow through any wired lines and burn anything or everything in its path. Water is the most physically destructive force on earth and will warp and destroy your computers along with the data stored on them. If your business relies on technology for its operational effectiveness, then you really need to make sure you are prepared. We have a page on the site, titled Storm Preparedness, that you can review for the details in both preparing for a storm and recovering after it hits.
Getting Insurance for the Oncoming Storm
By the time this posts, we may have more knowledge of what to expect (it is impossible at this stage to judge exactly when [or if] it will arrive), but the point of this post is to encourage and implore you to make sure you are prepared, regardless. Tropical Disturbance 99-L (“Hermine” if it turns into a storm) is on track to hit the US sometime over the weekend. It might be a storm or a full blown hurricane and it might hit southwest Florida after passing across the state or it might head into the gulf and come up our coastlines. Either way, preparedness is key.
A few weeks ago, I spoke with an insurance agency about their technology plan. They had no anti-virus, firewall protection and were using freeware for their email host. The owner is also using his computer as the company-wide server. As I listened to their story and heard about their history (no reported problems with their computers since they founded their business), I was shocked. Despite being an insurance company (and a fantastic one at that), they had no insurance on their technology! There were no barriers to a hacker’s entry, no updating definitions to keep them safe and they didn’t even have someone to call if something broke. During our meeting, I made the direct connection to their industry and the need for quality IT managed services. Thankfully, they agreed and are on their way to being protected. However, protection for everyday life and a hurricane are two different things. Here are a couple of questions to consider as you prepare for this potential storm.
First Question: Are you physically prepared for a hurricane or storm?
Our storm preparedness page offers some basic tidbits to making sure your equipment is as prepared as possible for a storm. Such things as unplugging all electronics, getting them off the ground and up onto desks, wrapping them plastic wrap, etc… are all good ideas to prevent equipment loss. Replacing destroyed computers is expensive (especially if there are a lot) and it does not take a lot of water to render one useless.
You also need to make sure you think past the desktop box. Monitors, specialty equipment, and even software needs protected. Do you know that if you have to replace a computer due to a storm, your license agreement for Microsoft Office (the single-use license) is no longer valid? Those single-use licenses are only good for the original computer they are installed upon, and it is technically illegal for you to use that copy on another one, even in the case of damage such as this.
Second Question: Are you digitally prepared for a hurricane or storm?
As expensive as hardware can be, it is tiny next to the value of your business data. Customer records, account information, vendors, etc… all of it is priceless info in regards to the running of your business. If your data is only stored on-site and is lost in a hurricane, how will you be able to invoice for work done? Or order more supplies for fulfillment? Having a backup of your data is great, but if it is on-site, it can easily be destroyed along with everything else. Using an off-site or online backup system will ensure that after the storm runs its course, you will be able to pick up your business where it left off, even if you have to purchase new equipment.
Third Question: Is your business able to operate during and after the hurricane or storm?
The financial losses due to a storm or hurricane can be enough to cripple or end many businesses. These are direct costs that are easily seen on a ledger. But what about the cost of lost business? Depending on your market and who/where you cater, your clients may very well still be operating at full capacity. The downtime you face while riding out the storm and recovering could be the difference between that huge client you win or lose. Having to shut down during a storm offers devastating consequences to your indirect costs as well. This is why it is vital that you are at least able to run a skeleton crew or portion of your business throughout the storm.
Battery backups, mobile equipment, cellular hot-spots and VoIP phones are all ways that you can continue to be effective and efficient even during the fiercest of squalls. Need to evacuate? A VoIP phone service plan and phone means you can take the physical phone with you, plug it into your hotel’s Wi-Fi and answer/make calls as if you were at your desk. Your business, your revenue, your profit; it doesn’t have to stop. Remember, your competition doesn’t want to stop their business from running either.
The Link Between Hurricanes and Football
No, I am not talking about the University of Miami. Your answers to these questions can determine your ability to survive and/or thrive through a hurricane. As I was always taught from my parents, it is always best to plan for the worst. If you want to score a touchdown, preparation is key. Wide receivers spend a lot of time on footwork and speed so that they can be faster and more maneuverable than their defensive covers. Likewise, if the defensive line wants to break past the offensive line and into the backfield in enough time to disrupt/break a play, they have to focus on their strength and speed.
Those kinds of preparations cannot happen two days before a game. It takes weeks and months (even years) of work and pre-planning to be ready when the storm hits. Obviously, whatever hits this weekend will hit whether or not you are ready for it. If you are, great! If not, then certainly do what you can with the time you have.
Thank you to Weather.com for the images.