Protecting IT Systems During Hurricane Season

As state and local governments look ahead to a potentially severe hurricane season, CDW Government offers seven tips for well-managed disaster preparedness plans to prevent costly downtime and help maintain important citizen services.

Five years after Hurricane Katrina and other major storms struck the Gulf Coast and Southeast in one of the most devastating hurricane seasons on record, some areas are still repairing the damage. Now, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center is warning of a 2010 hurricane season eerily similar to 2005.

Citing all-time high sea surface temperatures in key areas of the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the El Nino cycle, NOAA predicts that the 2010 season will most likely produce 14 to 23 named storms, eight to 14 hurricanes, and three to seven major hurricanes (category 3 or stronger). Faced with these alarming predictions, many state and local government officials may be asking what they can do to keep their cities and states functioning during a major business disruption such as a hurricane.

CDW Government (CDW-G) outlines the top seven habits of highly resilient organizations that state and local government officials can adopt to best prepare their information technology (IT) systems for a hurricane:

  1. Assess your current plan. Conduct a business impact assessment that prioritizes critical processes for the entire organization. For example, processes that need to resume within 24 hours to prevent serious mission impact, such as essential citizen services, could receive an “A” rating.
  2. Take steps to protect data. Agencies should back up data frequently to ensure that data integrity and applications are not jeopardized. Agencies also should store multiple copies of data off site, at a remote location, a long distance from the primary data center.
  3. Review power options. Agencies should add uninterrupted power supplies to keep the most essential applications running. In addition, cooling systems should be supported by backup generators. Temperature spikes can cause unplanned interruptions when operations are most critical.
  4. Identify and appoint a cross-functional preparedness team. Create a team to design and test the disaster recovery plan, as well as a recovery team, which will participate in recovery activities after any declared disaster.
  5. Document, test and update. The disaster preparedness plan should include logistical details, including travel to backup sites, and even who has spending authority for emergency needs. The plan should be tested in an environment that simulates an actual emergency.
  6. Consider telecommunications alternatives. Following Hurricane Katrina, many organizations lost access to reliable telecommunications equipment for days. Alternative communications vehicles, including wireless phones and satellite phones, should be considered.
  7. Form tight relationships with vendors. Hardware, software, network and service vendors can help expedite recovery, can often ensure priority replacement of telecommunications equipment, personal computers, servers and network hardware in the event of a disaster.
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