Winterize Your DR Plan

December 13, 2018

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) seasonal outlook, which covers December 2018 through February 2019, we can expect mostly warmer-than-normal weather this winter across much of the US. But don’t think that means we’ll escape snow, ice, and other conditions that could lead to winter power outages and data center downtime. 

Weather can be unpredictable, and winter power outages seem to happen regardless of weather forecasts. In areas where overhead power lines are common ─ which is much of the country, a single ice storm or heavy winds can cause an outage.  And any time the power goes out, there’s a potential for downtime and data loss. Heavy snow accumulation and ice dams also pose threats. They can cause leaks and/or bring roofs down, damaging essential IT infrastructure.   

It’s not enough to have a DR plan in place. It must be able to stand up to the unique risks associated with winter weather. It needs to be regularly tested so that it performs as expected if a disaster strikes. It also needs to be resilient. (Read How Resilient is Your DR Plan for more on that.)

The following tips can help you make sure your DR plan is winter ready and ready to perform.

  • Consider telecommuting options for key employees, as well as a well thought out BYOD policy.

    Chances are you have employees who are essential to keeping your critical business functions operating. If severe winter weather keeps them from being on-site, make sure they are equipped with the necessary resources to conduct business or access specific systems or data from wherever they are. Choose the most secure methods for remote access. Frequently test connections and processes so that if a disaster strikes, everything is set to go. Restrict access to only the data deemed necessary to each employee’s job.  Implement advanced security technologies and training to help protect data from intentional or unintentional insider breaches. 

  

  • Keep your website running so you can use it to keep your stakeholders apprised of the status of your business during a severe winter storm.

    Take measures to keep your website up and up-to-date.  Cloud services can help ensure you always have scalable resources to cost effectively meet traffic demands when needed and to power security mechanisms that defend against cyber-attacks. A secure, reliable network is a must as well. 

   

  • Regularly back up your data and applications.

    This is a must any time of the year, but can be especially important when winter storms threaten to take down your IT infrastructure. Backup copies should be updated frequently and stored in the cloud or at an offsite location to ensure you have access to them if your facility is damaged by a storm or hazardous conditions prevent you from being on site. There are several backup methods to use. Make sure to select the one that best meets your organization’s business requirements.
  • Protect your physical infrastructure.

    Maintain an uninterrupted power supply to help prevent data loss and potential damage to your hardware. Have surge protectors on all network appliances. If your company requires zero downtime, make sure you have access to a secondary source of power such as a generator to keep critical systems running. If you rely on internet connections for cloud computing, customer support systems, or anything else, consider getting service from at least two different providers using diverse paths to enter your facilities. If your utilities use the same path, consider wireless backups or at least use different technologies.

    Better yet, consider moving your infrastructure to a colocation or cloud services provider that provides the requisite connectivity, redundancies, cooling, and power supplies. These types of vendors must deal with severe winter weather as well, but the good ones among them are prepared to do so. If you go this route, make sure you understand your organization’s requirements for security and uptime and that the vendor can meet them.
  • Consider a Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) solution.

    Even with winter weather already underway, it’s never too late to hand off the replication and hosting of physical or virtual servers to a third-party that can provide failover in the event of a winter-related catastrophe, as well as any kind of man-made or natural disaster. DRaaS solutions can be especially useful for small- to mid-size businesses that lack the expertise and resources to provision, configure and test an effective DR plan.

    Among the benefits of a DRaaS solution: it’s a managed service offered on a contract or pay-per-use basis. That means there is no need to invest in or maintain your own off-site DR environment. The requirements are documented in a service-level agreement (SLA), so you know what to expect. Some DRaaS solutions also include regular testing and customized DR playbooks.

Your Next Steps

There’s no escaping winter storms in most parts of the United States, but your business doesn’t have to suffer when extreme winter conditions occur. Your DR plan is meant to help you weather whatever Mother Nature sends your way. 

To help determine your readiness for a disaster any time of the year, download US Signal’s DR Checklist. It can help you identify areas of weakness in your current DR strategy, and prepare you for developing a more comprehensive, resilient plan.

US Signal’s solution architects are also available to evaluate your current DR plan or, if you don’t have one, to create a customized solution to meet your company’s specific DR needs.  For information, call 866.2.SIGNAL or email us at: info@ussignal.com