Welcome to Hurricane Season

Carl Weinschenk

Anyone taking a look at the image in this link and those that follow, which appear at weather.com this week, should have a good idea what this post is about: It is time – perhaps past time – to get ready for the hurricane season.

It’s an ominous-looking map. (Somehow, “Tropical Depression Seven” and “Remnants of Ernesto” sound more threatening than “Hurricane Gayle” or “Hurricane Bob.” The former sounds like slasher films, the latter like some friends who are coming over for a barbeque.) IT Business Edge and other sites have great advice on disaster recovery/business continuity steps for preparedness in general and hurricanes in particular.

Here is the best piece of advice, however: Do something. There is a perfect way to do crunches, the breast stroke or to jog. But by just getting on the floor and bending up and down, jumping in the pool and paddling back and forth or putting on sneakers and ambling down the road, you are gaining a large chunk of the benefits that would accrue from doing the activities in a way that Jillian Michaels would approve.

The point is that companies shouldn’t be intimidated by the detailed list of steps to take and things to do. Such an overload of information can lead companies to either not address the issue at all or to over-research and fall victim to “paralysis by analysis.”

Two pieces of advice that should be taken is to make DR/BC somebody’s job, and make sure that person has a champion in the upper-level hierarchy. Of course, how this manifests itself will be different depending on the precise size and nature of the company.

At the highest level, the idea is to change DR/BC from being a best-effort initiative that is done when somebody has some spare time to being something that is in the job description of a person who will have to show what steps were taken when review time rolls around. It also is important to make sure that the person charged with DR/BC chores has the backing of a C-level executive.

PCMag, in the first of four articles on DR/BC, does a nice job of setting the scene. The first point is that truly addressing this challenge begins long before the incident occurs. The writer walks through some of the things that flow from that: It is important to have mirror versions of mission-critical apps and systems running, and systems and procedures must be in place to carry out necessary tasks even if IT staff are off line or absent. The bottom line:

In short, IT contingency in wake of emergencies should be as seamless, as compliant with corporate security policies, and as easy for end-users to access as possible.

Blaine Raddon, Acronis’ the general manager for the Americas, looked specifically at hurricane preparedness in this commentary at Data Center Knowledge. He begins by pointing out that this year’s forecast calls for 11 named storms and six hurricanes – with two being category three or higher.

Raddon pointed to research Acronis commissioned from the Ponemon Institute. The good news is that many organizations are using virtualized environments, which can be considered the raw ingredient to a good DR/BC platform. Unfortunately, this potential tool is not being cared for properly:

Virtual machines need protecting, too. While 62 percent of U.S. respondents in the 2012 Disaster Recovery Index believe the migration to a virtualized environment will make it easier to ensure that their backup and disaster recovery operations are efficiently managed, an overwhelming 44 percent still don’t back up their virtual machines as often as their physical ones.

Raddon suggests that more companies are turning toward the virtual machine’s cousin, the cloud, for help in DR/BC. The use of the cloud for DR/BC is set to grow, especially because it also brings the huge advantage of cutting opex in day-to-day activities.

If your business has offices in the South or the East Coast, it is likely that storm clouds – big and dangerous-looking storm clouds – will threaten some time during the next few months. Those who haven’t paid attention to DR/BC don’t have time to get a full platform up and running. By the same token, it never is too late to start. The first steps are to empower and then to look at implementing DR/BC as seamlessly as possible with ongoing IT functions such as virtualization and the cloud.

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