Reflections on Hurricane Sandy

Tomorrow marks two years since Hurricane Sandy first formed in the Caribbean before wreaking havoc on the East Coast.

With customers in Manhattan, we saw some of the aftermath firsthand.

We witnessed the damages that would ultimately land Sandy among the ranks of the worst natural disasters of 2012 (the damages amounted to $65 billion).

Utility trucks lining the streets of Union Square
Con Edison electrical services
preparing for Sandy in Union Square
Vehicles driving through pouring rain
East Williamsburg Brooklyn
during the beginning of Sandy
Dark, dimly lit street
14th Street in Manhattan after Sandy






















We heard about the challenges our clients faced: widespread power outages, downed voice circuits and inaccessible office space.

Throughout the affected areas’ recovery efforts, our clients — who, by the way, had comprehensive disaster recovery plans in place — and other companies have shown us that businesses are key to a community’s recovery, whether it’s donating money to relief efforts or selling critical services and providing jobs.

Was your business affected by Sandy? Share your experience with us in the comments.

If Your BC/DR Strategies Were a Football Team...

Football season is in full swing, so we’re starting to see which teams are championship worthy and which teams are just scraping by. That got us thinking: If your lineup of business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) solutions were a football team, how good would it be? Much like the players of a football team, your BC/DR solutions have important tasks independently, but the goal is to get them all working together to win the game (or to recover successfully from a business interruption).

Businessman in football helmet with footballTo make sure your BC/DR efforts are well integrated and cohesive, you have to make sure you’ve got the basics of a successful football team: offense, defense and special teams.

Offense


The goal of the offense is to move the ball closer and closer to the end zone in order to score a touchdown. To keep your forward momentum, you need offensive strategies. If your offense is made up of the right solutions, your company can continue to efficiently score touchdowns — such as successful recoveries.

Offensive Lineup of Solutions
  • Cloud Vaulting and Recovery — Protect your business from data loss by saving a copy of your critical data to a secure, private cloud. If your servers fail or crash, you'll be able to access your information via the Internet and continue moving toward the goal.
  • Compliance Testing — To test your BC/DR strategies without interrupting daily work, consider testing them in a cloud environment. This will help you determine any kinks in your plan before you're in a real disaster. When a business interruption does occur, you'll be equipped to handle it efficiently and minimize business downtime.

Defense


No matter how good your offense is, at some point you may need to rely on your defense. If your defense isn’t on point, the opposing team will crush you. In the business world, downtime has put plenty of companies out of business — but you don’t have to let it defeat you. By implementing a solid BC/DR plan, you can fight back against downtime and resume business quickly. 

Defensive Lineup of Solutions
  • Network and Voice Recovery — To continue business after a disaster, you need a backup network and communications infrastructure. Consider using a network and voice recovery solution that can be delivered to any location and configured to your specifications (such as a mobile recovery unit equipped with voice and data connections), so you have flexibility in case of an unexpected business interruption.
  • Alternate Workspace — When your building is hit by a disaster, it's sometimes left unworkable. Consider a Business Recovery Center or Mobile Recovery Center to avoid shutting down your business. An alternate work environment will allow you and your employees to get back up and running after a disaster.

Special Teams


Offense and defense typically get all the glory in football, but the special teams players are keys to the success of a football team. In BC/DR, the solutions that are used in the midst of a business interruption typically get most of the praise, but there are a set of behind-the-scenes solutions that are vital to the continuity of your business. 

Special Teams Lineup of Solutions
  • Continuity Manager Software — Planning for a disaster requires a lot of resources and time, so it's important to do everything properly. With planning software designed specifically for BC/DR efforts, you can efficiently plan your disaster recovery strategies and assign tasks to recovery team members. By using software to assist in your planning, you can be sure that you don't leave out anything crucial.
  • Professional Planning Services — The constant changes in compliance requirements make it tough to keep your BC/DR plan current. By hiring a professional planning consultant, you can be sure that your plan complies with the ever-changing federal regulations and avoid hefty fines.
With these players on your team of BC/DR strategies, you’ll be able to recover quickly and efficiently from a disaster. For more BC/DR planning tips, download our checklist.

Five Disasters Caused by Human Error

Man holding laptop looking horrifiedYou know that natural disasters can wreak havoc on your business. We’ve already seen plenty proof of that this year: the polar vortex in the Midwest and Southeast, the tornado outbreak in the South, the San Diego firestorm, etc.

Sometimes, though, disasters aren’t naturally occurring phenomena, but rather the unfortunate result of human error. That’s why it’s important for your business to be prepared for all types of events, regardless of the cause.

Over the years, employees’ mistakes have cost businesses downtime, reputational damage and monetary loss. Below are five notable examples.

Data for 19,000 Colorado Employees Goes Missing


Late in 2007, an employee of the state of Colorado misplaced a USB drive while transporting it between work sites. Unfortunately, the device contained nearly 19,000 current and former employees' Social Security numbers and possibly addresses. The employee was disciplined for not following protocol, and IT officials were tasked with the arduous process of determining whose information the USB drive contained so all 19,000 individuals could be notified.

Train Runs Stop Signal


In 2008, a Metrolink commuter train engineer caused a wreck considered "the nation’s deadliest rail disaster in 15 years" when he ran a stop signal in Los Angeles and collided with a freight train. The accident decimated the train and resulted in 25 deaths and 135 injuries. Investigators determined that the engineer had been texting while operating the train. His last text had been sent 22 seconds before the crash.

Kansas City Hotel Walkway Collapses


More than 1,000 partygoers at an event being held at Kansas City’s Hyatt Regency Hotel in 1981 became victims of an engineer team’s design flaw when a skywalk on the fourth floor collapsed. The structure dislodged other structures made of steel, concrete and glass, which resulted in the deaths of 114 people. The engineers were stripped of their licenses.

Incorrect Command Wipes Pixar Server


The creators of Pixar’s "Toy Story 2" nearly saw two months and hundreds of hours of hard work disappear when someone ran an incorrect command and erased the server where the movie’s files were stored. Thankfully, one of the company’s directors had a backup (the only one) stored on her computer at home, and the movie was saved.

Power Outage Affecting Millions of Customers


In 2011, an Arizona Power Service employee single-handedly caused a power outage affecting Arizona, Southern California and Mexico. The worker had been performing routine maintenance at a substation in Arizona, but instead triggered a cascade of outages affecting millions of customers across the power grid.

Human error is inevitable, but when it affects your business’s success, be sure you’re equipped to deal with the aftermath.

To start creating or re-evaluating your plan, check out our Business Continuity Plan Checklist.

The Beginning of Autumn and Business Continuity

Tomorrow marks the first day of autumn: a season with falling leaves, cooler weather and an abundance of pumpkins. Many are using this time to prepare for the upcoming holidays, but the season itself can serve as a reminder to look at your business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) efforts.

In many ways, autumn and business continuity are alike. In case you don't see the similarities right off the bat, we've listed some below.

Continuous Changes


Business people walking amongst Autumn treesDuring autumn, it's well known that the leaves and temperature change along with the length of days, but what's less prominent is the fact that the starting date of the season shifts from year to year. The first day of autumn constantly changes between September 22 and 23, due to the amount of time it takes the earth to orbit the sun. It even occurs on September 24 every 372 years.

Much like autumn, your business experiences constant changes. Because of these changes, your BC/DR strategies must adapt to fit your business's evolving needs. As a company grows from a small business to a mid-size or large business, it requires different approaches to staying operational during a disaster. Consulting professional business continuity planners on a regular basis will ensure that your efforts match your needs.

Equal Measures


In Latin, the term "equinox" means "equal night," which is a reference to the nearly equal amount of sunlight and darkness on the day of the autumnal equinox. This half-and-half relationship reminds us of the equal importance of planning and testing a BC/DR plan.

Planning for a disaster involves more than thinking about what you might do in case of an emergency. A concrete plan must be created and distributed among your organization. By doing so, when you experience a business interruption, you can simply reference and enact your plan instead of trying to recall from memory what you thought would be best.

Planning is most valuable when it's backed up by testing. Testing reveals problems with your plan before a disaster occurs. It's important to test before you have to implement your plan so you can fill the gaps before you're recovering from a catastrophe.

Harvests and Storage


Autumn is well known for being the harvest season. In the same way that people and animals gather food and store it for the bitter winter approaching, your business should collect important company data and store it in case disaster strikes.

The cloud is a good option for storing information because it allows your data to be secured off-site so you can still access it during a disaster. Instead of losing important data in a disaster, your business will be able to access it quickly and recover with minimal damage.

To make sure you don't miss anything critical in your BC/DR plan, download our disaster recovery checklist.

[INFOGRAPHIC] Data Management in the Cloud Era

Did you know that 70 percent of businesses are managing data in the cloud? If you're still not sure about using cloud services, check out this infographic by our partner, CommVault, to see how businesses are using the cloud.

CommVault cloud data management infographic

If you'd like to learn more about implementing cloud recovery solutions, check out this post.

Businesses That Made a Difference After the Napa Earthquake

Photo by James Gunn via Flickr / Creative Commons License
One hundred red-tagged homes and businesses. More than 200 injured people. Seventy thousand customers without power. This was the aftermath of the 6.0 magnitude earthquake that left Napa Valley in shambles at 3:20 a.m. on August 24.

Yet despite the turmoil, the community banded together to repair the damage wrought on the places they lived and worked. Several businesses, some with damage to their own facilities, stepped forward to help residents get back on their feet again, whether by responding to emergency calls or simply serving coffee.

Pacific Gas and Electric


When 70,000 customers lost power after the earthquake, Pacific Gas and Electric (PGE) worked tirelessly to restore it. Within days of the quake, all customers were back on the grid. PGE also announced on its website that it would conduct gas safety checks at homes and businesses throughout the affected area.

Napa Public Works


After Napa sustained 90 water line leaks, Napa Public Works worked overnight to repair eight of them.

Napa Fire Department


During the first 30 hours after the 3:20 a.m. earthquake, the Napa Fire Department responded to more than 360 service calls, including 92 possible gas leaks, 50 downed power lines and 50 fires.

Queen of the Valley Medical Center


Despite sustaining structural damage to an administrative building and power loss, the Queen of the Valley Medical Center relied on backup generators to reopen its doors. The facility set up two triage tents Sunday night and resumed normal operations on Monday, allowing staff to treat the 200-plus patients that sustained injuries from the quake.

North Napa Post Office


With its facility out of commission due to damage, the North Napa post office set up a tent as a temporary mail drop-off and P.O. box pickup station so residents could still send and receive mail.

Home Depot


The damage to Napa’s local Home Depot store was not as bad as other area businesses, so the company hooked up a generator and opened as usual on Sunday morning. As residents worked to repair the damage to their homes, Home Depot’s emergency order of cleanup supplies such as water heater parts, fittings, garbage bags and water shovels flew off the shelves.

The company also supplied trucks filled with water, garbage cans and bags to a crew of about 40 people, who went house to house helping residents.

Javco Window and Glass


In downtown Napa, the buildings' storefront windows were no match for the earthquake. Employees of Javco Window and Glass spent two days replacing their own damaged glass supply and then helping nearby businesses board up and assess the damage to their broken windows and frames.

VisitNapaValley.com


Napa businesses rely heavily on tourism, so the tourism website VisitNapaValley.com immediately updated its site with information about businesses that had reported they were open. By having this information readily available, tourists were able to determine if they could move forward with vacations they’d previously planned.

Alexis Baking Company


Alexis Baking Company, a local bakery known to residents as ABC, was fortunate enough to have its power restored quickly. When the owner came in to clean up her facility, she decided to set out free pastries and coffee for the community as a way to give back.

It’s organizations like these that demonstrate how having a good disaster recovery plan helps not only the business itself but the community as well. This is not a comprehensive list, however. There are many other unsung heroes helping pull Napa back together. If you know of one, share their story with us in the comments!

Learning From Japan’s Disaster Recovery Strategies

"Post-disaster settings provide opportunities to examine the effectiveness of leadership in mobilizing people and resources in highly dynamic situations." 
— Hirotaka Takeuchi, Harvard Professor of Management Practice

Building surrounded by rubble after the Tohoku earthquakeForbes recently published a story about a Harvard MBA program that allows students to travel around the world exchanging knowledge with leaders at businesses of all sizes, from mom-and-pop shops to mega-corporations.

A subset of this program, called the Immersion Experience Program (IXP), sends about 30 students to Japan annually. There, the students learn how local businesses exercised disaster preparedness and recovery after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

Here are some key takeaways we gleaned from the write-up about the students’ trip to Japan this year:
  • True resiliency revolves around a comprehensive recovery strategy as well as entrepreneurial innovation.
  • Disaster recovery involves adapting to the needs of the community, not just increasing profitability.
  • Successful CEOs pursue the business’s goals even when faced with adversity.

Read the full article here.