Hurricane Harvey, A Costly Disaster For Houston
A chilling reminder that natural disasters can strike at any time, Hurricane Harvey has surpassed warnings given by experts and left thousands in its wake. The category 4 hurricane which has effected parts of Louisiana and Texas, has seen reported winds of more than 100mph, mass flooding and power outages state wide. Houston is among those cities worst hit.
The state national guard has been deployed in full, going from 4,000 active servicemen to 12,000; charged with searching for those who are trapped, stranded or running low on supplies, the national guard have taken to the waterlogged roads in boats to help the population. For many this will be a horrible reminder of the events of Hurricane Katrina, it has already been predicted that the effects of Hurricane Harvey will still be felt in more than 2-years’ time.
In the immediate aftermath of the Hurricane it is predicted that 30,000 people were evacuated from their homes, many are now left stranded with no homes, no possessions and with no way to travel. Damages are predicted to be in the billions of dollars and early estimations by insurance companies predict between $1 billion and $2 billion of wind and storm damages.
For businesses in Houston, there will be a total standstill with much of the city still under water and travel in and out of the city is particularly difficult. Economists have predicted a dip in the city’s economy and with thousands of barrels of oil trapped underwater, oil prices may be set to rise. Insurance businesses are likely to be busy over the next few months but with many of them not covering flood damage, those who have been hit the hardest will have to wait for the state to come through on Federal Flood Insurance.
The need for DR
It is increasingly difficult to protect an IT environment against the threats that could have a long-lasting negative effect against it, even more so against a natural disaster that is almost impossible to predict. Whether it’s for a business or an individual, plans can be made to increase the likelihood of being able to recover data in the event of a disaster.
Disaster Recovery refers to policy driven procedures to restore data, infrastructure and systems on a larger scale in the event of a natural disaster or a human related disaster takes place. Disaster Recovery could also include failover to systems that data is replicated to.
Disaster Recovery (DR) planning is vital for organisations of all sizes. Not only will it increase the chances of recovery and aim to cut downtime, it can be required by insurers to cover damages – insurance will only be able to cover the physical damage and DR should cover the digital aspects.
The cost of downtime to a business can widely vary based on the seasonality of the organisation, how they have been affected and more importantly how long the downtime lasts. One of the main costs will come from how the downtime affects the ability of the organisation to continue interacting with customers, whether receiving or fulfilling orders.
Using cloud for DR purposes
Cloud platforms offer many advantages for those using them; data is automatically held in a secure offsite location and can be accessed at any time. In a disaster scenario, utilising cloud can save valuable time and money. For example, being able to access data that is stored in a cloud location, such as contact details for both customers and suppliers (and insurers), will allow you to inform customers of the situation (fire/flood/disaster etc) and to give regular updates.
Cloud can also play a factor in the speed at which an organisation is able to continue operating or get back to operational capacity, this is known as Business Continuity (BC). BC can be done in several ways, replication being one of the most common but cloud will often play a part due to its flexibility and ease of implementation/administration.
Successful DR and BC planning will account for the relative value of different types of data to an organisation, as well as who are the key stakeholders in a disaster situation. The top priority for each organisation will be different but it is usually of high importance to be able to contact staff, customers and suppliers and then to begin getting back to operational capacity. Wider plans should include provisions for staff to continue working, such as alternative premises or the ability to work remotely.