Natural Disasters of 2011: Are You Prepared in 2012? PDF Print E-mail
System Administration - High Availability / Disaster Recovery
Written by Simon O’Sullivan   
Monday, 23 January 2012 00:00

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Mother Nature is unpredictable. You need to ask yourself: Are you prepared?


Natural disasters pose enormous threats to an organization's business operations, and 2011 will go on record as one of the most disaster-filled years in recent history. The year started with severe blizzard conditions over most of the U.S., which was soon followed by:


  • Earthquake and resulting tsunami and nuclear accident in Japan
  • Damaging earthquakes in New Zealand and, quite unusually, along the U.S. East Coast
  • Tornadoes across the U.S.
  • Floods in Australia and the Midwestern and Southeastern U.S.
  • Hurricane Irene, which shut down New York City for a day and resulted in serious flood damage to the Northeastern U.S.
  • Unprecedented worldwide triple-digit heat

According to industry estimates, total weather losses in the U.S. alone came to more than $35 billion before figuring in Hurricane Irene. The Australian floods cost an estimated $5 billion, and the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand $20 billion. CNN reported that the total cost of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami will top the scales at $309 billion. Can any of us remember a more costly year for disaster recovery? These tragedies serve as a stark reminder that information is often the most irreplaceable part of any business. Mother Nature has proven herself to be unpredictable, and who's to say 2012 won't bring more of the same? You need to ask yourself: Are you prepared?


In the wake of shutdowns caused by major earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, or hurricanes, many businesses discover the hard way that they didn't have adequate backup and consequently have lost access to their servers and their data and/or they are not equipped to operate remotely. Large events such as an earthquake, or even a fire, mean that physical access to servers and data can often be delayed by days or weeks...and that assumes the hardware survived the disaster itself.


New Zealand and Japan continue to suffer powerful aftershocks to the strong earthquakes that happened earlier in 2011. And for many businesses affected by the nuclear accident caused by Japan's massive earthquake, the ongoing nuclear crisis is preventing them from gaining physical access to their buildings. This situation is causing some businesses to go under simply because they can't get access to their data.


Imagine for a moment that your business, and the building that houses it, is destroyed. Everything you have has been crushed by heavy debris, burned in a fire, soaked with floodwaters, water from fire hoses, or rain, and then exposed to the elements, dust, wind, and humidity for days. What sort of shape do you think your IT hardware is going to be in? And what about the data it houses?


Be honest. You already know the answer. But the bigger question is, what does this mean for your business? Is there still a business left?


According to an AT&T study of 100 corporate firms with revenues of less than $25 million, 20 percent don't have a disaster recovery plan in place. Imagine the number of employees who would lose their jobs and investors who would lose their money. And, of course, the business market share fought so hard for would now be freely available to competitors.

What's Your Disaster Recovery Plan?

Without an effective disaster recovery plan and the technology required to execute on the plan, your business could be shut down until you can restore your data and your systems to get up and running again.


You hear the same thing over and over: Most companies thought it would never happen to them.


If you don't have a disaster recovery plan and access to your data is business-critical, what are you waiting for? Take immediate action and do these seven things:


  1. Put a disaster recovery plan in place for physical operations as well as all business-critical systems and data.
  2. Make your plan fit to the amount of time you can afford to have your systems down (how long can your business survive without access to your data?).
  3. Check your recovery point status (is yesterday's backup tape OK?).
  4. Think about how your staff will need to communicate after a disaster and plan for this (two-way radios, wifi, etc.). When disaster strikes, regular means of communication go down. You should expect that communications will be down for some time and put a plan in place to work around this.
  5. Include an alternate location that your company can operate from, and duplicate your business processes across both sites if possible. Have a plan in place for staff to meet at a set location after a disaster strikes. If your preferred location isn't feasible, have a step 2 and a step 3 location in mind.
  6. Test your plan.
  7. Test your plan again.


Once you have your basic plan, complete the process by taking these important steps:


Role play. Create totally plausible disaster scenarios that represent actual threats your company might face and see how your employees might react. This could be a fire, an earthquake, a terrorist attack, a blizzard, a tornado, or an outbreak of a viral infection. This makes your employees think about what they have to do when disaster strikes. Review your plan with your teams and then stage a mock event. See how the plan is executed and check the results. What changes might you have to make? What can be improved? It's one thing to stage a disaster and another to measure the results and take action. Encourage your team to be creative in their reactions and responses; ask them for feedback on how they could have done better.


Talk to your partners about your disaster recovery plans. Talk with your partners in the supply chain, distributors, channel partners, and key customers about your preparedness and plans. It's a good idea to find out what plans they have in case of an emergency. Open communication helps everything get back online and back in business faster after a disaster strikes.


Share what disaster recovery tools and procedures work with others. In times of a crisis, everyone comes through better when everyone works together. Share your strategies for bouncing back after likely disaster scenarios. Speak about your best practices, the results of your dry runs, the problems you found, and the ways you resolved them. Listen to what others have to say about their own experience and consider adopting some of those techniques. The exchange of information and assistance during a catastrophe can mean the difference between a disruption in business and the destruction of a business.


Update your disaster recovery solutions, training, and plan twice a year. Smart homeowners change the batteries in their smoke detectors twice a year. Likewise, smart businesses should take a semi-annual approach to updating their disaster recovery solutions and strategies to accommodate new data, software upgrades, and new techniques and ideas. When was the last time your disaster recovery plan was updated? If it's been longer than a year, it's been too long. Hire any new employees since the last training? Bet they don't have a clue what to do. Twice-a-year updates ensure that every employee is familiar with your disaster recovery plan, products, and procedures.


Use good-quality disaster recovery solutions and services for your business. Do you love your company? Then give it the very best disaster recovery technology and disaster recovery services provider to develop a customized plan for your business. Take their advice on business continuity plans, employee training, and data recovery processing procedures. No matter how large or how small your business is, the pros know the right plan for your company.

Simon O’Sullivan
About the Author:

Simon O’Sullivan is senior vice president of Maxava, the worldwide provider of innovative IBM i high availability and disaster recovery software solutions. He previously worked with IBM for 10 years on international implementation projects in England, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. He can be reached at

Last Updated on Friday, 23 March 2012 14:58
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