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Hurricane Preparation Tips for Information Systems

The 2005 hurricane season was one of the deadliest and costliest on record. According to the Hurricane Information Center, the 2005 season caused a record $46 billion in insured losses.

Colorado State's Tropical Meteorology Project predicts another active Atlantic basin hurricane season in 2006.

With the start of hurricane season, many businesses and state and local government officials should be focused on keeping their critical operations functioning during a major business disruption such as a hurricane.

A well-managed disaster preparedness plan can help prevent costly downtime and reduce inconvenience to citizens. CDW Corp., a leading provider of technology products and services to business, government and education, has developed a list of the top seven habits of highly resilient organizations that businesses and state and local government officials can adopt to best prepare their information technology systems for a hurricane:

1) Conduct a business impact assessment that prioritizes critical processes for the entire organization. For example, processes that need to be resumed within 24 hours to prevent serious mission impact, such as citizen service delivery, could receive an "A" rating.

2) Take steps to protect data. Organizations should back up data frequently to ensure records are kept. Organizations should also store multiple copies of data off site and a long distance from the primary data center.

3) Review power options. Organizations should add uninterrupted power supplies (UPS) 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, which will design and test the disaster recovery plan, and a recovery team, which will participate in recovery activities after any declared disaster.

5) Document, test and update the disaster preparedness plan. The 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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