As the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy approaches, the IT community has heeded important lessons about disaster recovery and data protection.

One year later: disaster recovery lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy

Stephen Perkins

As the East Coast nears the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 29, the havoc that was brought upon the region's IT infrastructure serves as a wake-up call for the entire country in regard to the importance of data protection and disaster recovery plans. 

When Sandy took a turn for the worse and slammed into the New Jersey coast, IT systems were decimated, along with thousands of homes and businesses. In the end, 24 states were affected and the total damage – as of June 2013 estimates by the Department of Commerce and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration – amounted to $68 billion, making it by many accounts the second most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history behind Hurricane Katrina.

Weathering the storm
GigaOM's Barb Darrow pointed out several important lessons Sandy taught the IT community about disaster recovery and data protection.

While many organizations had contingency plans in place for natural disasters before the hurricane struck, the effect flood waters had on streets and subways was catastrophic, effectively shutting them down for days. Subsequently, companies now need to account for significantly longer downtimes by having the ability to retrieve lost information via the cloud or online backup services in order to enable employees to work remotely if disaster zones are inaccessible.

Weather-proofing facilities and positioning them above flood plains or in areas where the risk of flooding is minute, including assessing the physical security and stability of buildings from the basement to the roof, are important aspects to keep in mind as well.

Ensuring backup generators are protected from water with plentiful fuel and easily accessible and functioning flashlights, batteries and head lamps are essential. Utilizing online tools such as NOAA, Google Earth and topographical maps can help organizations predict and plan for incoming storms.

Possibly the greatest lesson observed by the IT community, however, is the value of having disaster recovery and data storage methods in locations far from coastal waters. Many companies in the NY metro and surrounding areas have shifted to vendors in the South and Midwest.

Having steadfast preparations, as well as a secure, stable and reliable backup solution in place, should be a top priority as the one-year anniversary of Sandy approaches. Many small- and medium-sized businesses continue to recuperate from the destruction, while others never will. Access to critical data and services must be duplicated and stored at off-site locations – the more redundancies, the better off a company is at fully restoring information. The quality of a disaster recovery plan depends on how much organizations want to invest in it; third-party backup providers can deliver solutions that are high caliber and less expensive than in-house alternatives.

Categories: Data Management, Data Protection, Disaster Recovery, Online Backup