Severe Weather: What should I do?

In the unlikely event that we do experience severe weather this weekend, I wanted to pass along some precautionary measures that you may want to consider to safeguard your computer equipment.

The most damaging two things that can happen in a major storm are electrical damage and water damage. Even though we all do our best to put protections in place, such as Uninterruptible Power Supplies and data backup routines, there is always the chance – especially in a major storm – that those protections can be circumvented or overrun.

If the weather predictions start to lean towards a major storm that may include extended power outages and\or interruptions, you may want to consider the following steps:

1) Make sure to take your backup tape or hard drive with you when you leave the office Friday. If you are using an off-site backup service, such as Mozy or Carbonite, double check to make sure it has run successfully.

2) Power down or turn off all computers, servers and electronic equipment such as routers, cable modems, printers and network switches. Start with the workstations, then the server, and finally all other equipment. The most damage to data occurs when a computer shuts off unexpectedly which can cause data loss or corruption. An Uninterruptible Power Supply (such as an APC UPS) is designed to protect against power surges and spikes and short term power loss. However, if the outage lasts longer than a few minutes, the battery will be exhausted and the equipment will still shut off, increasing the risk of data loss.

3) If the storm has the potential for lightning and\or major power spikes, such as from trees falling on power lines, you may want to take the added precaution of physically disconnecting all wires from the back of your equipment. Even though you may have surge protectors, if the spike is large enough, it can still find its way through the wires. For example, if there is an unprotected wire connected to the internet or phone system, the power spike can actually travel through ANY connected wire, such as a network cable, and damage the internal components of the system.

4) If you are in a location that is prone to flooding, after you have physically disconnected your computer or server, move it off the floor and onto a higher location or take it off the premises.

The level of precaution you decide to take will surely depend on the likelihood of the storm severity and your own business continuity needs, but we wanted to communicate the options so that everyone was prepared. Even with a good data backup, waiting for replacement parts and equipment can cause days or weeks of lost business productivity. We have found that a few hours of precautionary system downtime can save time piecing things back together afterwards.

Should you decide to shut everything down, when you power everything back up do so in the reverse order that you powered it down. Start with the miscellaneous equipment (internet devices, printers, etc), then the server, then the workstations.