Today marks a somber anniversary. One year ago, a ferocious storm unleashed its wrath and devastated many people’s personal lives and businesses.
Superstorm Sandy is on record as one of the deadliest and most destructive storms to emanate from the Atlantic Ocean in history. She wreaked havoc on homes and structures, killing over 280 people and leaving thousands without electricity. But Sandy also devastated the economy, with damage estimates in the tens of billions of dollars.
Yet, perseverance reigned in the aftermath. Rebuild and recovery commenced, and is still ongoing a year later. One of the major areas where disaster recovery went into overdrive was restoring businesses vital to the economy, as well as the technology on which those businesses depend.
Many of the post-Sandy technology restoration and preventative methods have been carried out by large businesses and government organizations. One New Jersey 911 call center, which took in over 90,000 calls during the height of the storm, was able to remain operational, thanks in large part to a company called Five9—a provider of cloud contact center software. Laura Zink Mark, director of operations at a New Jersey call center, said the facility was able to remain open because it routed calls through Five9’s cloud to locations throughout the U.S. – through electricity outages, dangerous weather, and five days on cots.
It’s this critical infrastructure that she said prevented the call center from going offline as they were routing Emergency Management personnel to victims in trouble. In the storm’s aftermath, they received 30,000 calls asking about emergency food stamps and other recovery efforts.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced action to strengthen the reliability and resiliency of 911 communication network during major disasters. Widespread outages and disruptions to 911 services in the Midwest and mid-Atlantic regions impacted more than 3.6 million people. Sandy revealed considerable flaws in the resiliency planning and implementation of the primary 911 network and led to an in-depth FCC inquiry into what went wrong, and what steps should be taken to better ensure public safety.
Even large tech companies that should be “in the know” with disaster recovery planning made greater efforts to thwart downtime in the event of a natural disaster. Companies such as Netflix and Openwave Messaging have abandoned the Oracle platform in favor of next-generation database platforms such as those from DataStax, whose fully distributed architecture, multi-datacenter support and no single point of failure ensures the availability of their applications. Other businesses and organizations have also taken proactive steps in keeping operational during a natural disaster.
Some Still Not Heeding
While government and big business are largely taking measure to thrive during and after another massive storm, studies show that smaller businesses are still not taking appropriate precautions. Sure, budgets are limited for small to mid-sized businesses, but even more cost-effective contingency plans are not being implemented in large part.
One recently released report, conducted by Wakefield Research, had some troubling findings. As of today, more than two-thirds of small businesses have not created a disaster plan, while another two-thirds are not backing up all of their business data.
Meanwhile, while 75 percent of small businesses do back up data electronically, 63 percent are using disaster-vulnerable local backup technology such as external hard drives, NASes, and servers. Finally, almost half of all small business owners do not have an alternate location to work from if their workplace becomes a disaster zone.
The survey also shed light on some common misconceptions about disaster recovery among small business owners. More than a third of business owners state they don’t back up because they have all of the files they need locally. Yet, as Sandy proved, local data can be obliterated during a storm.
More than 20 percent complained that backup takes too long. However, according to backup solution provider Carbonite, with the average business taking 16 days to recover data after a disaster, the 10 minutes it would require to set up an online backup solution is a worthy time investment.
In fact, online backup service vendors are shifting more business focus to the small business market. Carbonite’s CEO announced recently that by this time next year it “will primarily be a small business [centered] company; 50/50 small business and consumers.”
The small-to-mid-sized business community is an integral part of the American economy. While many SMB business owner recognize the need for an off-site backup strategy and disaster recovery plan, implementation has still been surprisingly lagging, even post-Sandy.
One New York City-based IT manager, Chris Donnell, works at architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, which was walloped during the storm.
“The building’s 31-foot, block-long basement was filled with water (it actually made it up about four feet into the lobby above),” Donnell said. “The damage to the building was enough that we didn’t have any power at all until [five days later]. And since Saturday, we still only have power to our 18th floor. The server rack had both UPSes die and they were just replaced.”
Thanks to the use of cloud services and a cloud storage gateway from the provider, Panzura, Donnell was able to salvage data and shift access to company resources off-site. However, many SMBs still lack a solid DR plan!
There are so many services available that there is no excuse for anyone to not have backup and contingency plans made for their small business or even personal, important data. Click the links above to help you get you started with a small business disaster recovery plan. Don’t want until the next natural disaster, fire, theft, or more commonly, hardware failure, wipes away your coveted data or damages your business. Let’s all learn from the harsh lessons of Sandy.