August 16

Ways to Keep Business Going when Extreme Weather and Climate Conditions Threaten Data

2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook: August 4 Update
Updated 2021 Atlantic hurricane season probability and numbers of named storms. (via NOAA)

Predictions from the NOAA for an above-average summer hurricane season were revised to be slightly more active after the first months of the annual unsettled weather was record-setting. After Hurricane Elsa arrived in June making it the earliest named(Tropical storms get a name when wind speeds pass certain dangerous thresholds) storm on record the upcoming weeks and months of weather activity look to continue pace. The organization makes forecasts and predictions about conditions in waterways, oceans and systems ahead of the annual severe weather season that occurs every June-November. The season might not be quite as bad as last year but the predictions are a good reminder to be prepared for the effect different types of severe conditions can have on our technology and data.

The East Coast battles an increase in severe storms and natural disasters from early summer until late fall annually. As far as storms, 2020 was a very rough year. Severe thunderstorms accounted for 13 of the 22 costliest weather disasters in 2020. The danger caused by storms and their related conditions range from tornadoes and wind to flash-flooding. Storms on the East Coast aren’t the only extreme weather conditions being experienced this time of year either. As summer goes on, heat-related effects are felt in many areas, especially the western side of North America. This year has brought devastating wildfires and record dangerous temperatures.

Screenshot of a cellphone screen with an emergency weather alert activated
Storms categorized by the National Weather Service as destructive will trigger an alert to your cellphone with new category system.

Amidst these increasing climate effects people turn to organizations like the NOAA to issue forecasts of atmospheric conditions and relay current information. The record amount of weather threats in 2020 led NOAA’s National Weather Service to implement additional notifications on their wireless emergency systems starting this month. They have added a new category of notice to indicate ‘damage threat level’ when announcing severe thunderstorms. This will help people determine when urgent action is needed to protect lives and also property.

Pushing Tech to the Extreme

Extreme weather in the summer is potentially not only taxing on people but also on the technology that surrounds and connects us. Environmental changes can put new strain on electronic devices small and large and particularly introduce new threats to data storage. Beyond the direct physical impacts of hurricanes and storms it is the associated effects that come in the form of power surges, fires and overheating, and floods, that can cause breakdowns and destruction of data. Computer systems and digital storage suffering downtime as a result can be dire to business operations.

Disasters Don’t Have To Mean Data Loss

When disaster strikes and access to data is hindered, it should be known that all is not lost: data is resilient. Forecasts and predictions from the NOAA about various weather conditions are a good reminder that allow you to be aware and get prepared. Learning about the various protocols and precautions one can take in the event of unsettled weather can be the difference between a serious data loss disaster and a data recovery success.

Preparation, Precautions, and Prevention

Here are 3 extreme weather condition effects and how you can prevent data loss when they hit:

Storms (Water & flood damage)

Storms and water damage

Storms of all sizes from tropical storms and tornadoes to heavy thunderstorms can bring days of torrential downpour and be followed by flooding. Water damage is likely inevitable.

Beforehand, making sure equipment and cables are off the ground at a suitable height is helpful. After a storm if electronics have become water-damaged, do not: power devices on, open water-logged media, attempt methods to dry media out, or clean water off them. Messing with water-saturated digital tech risks electrocution and damage! Better strategy is to seal the device or media in an airtight container.

Wind (Power outages)

Electrical outages, power surges

Unsettled weather activity that involves high winds often results in gusts that sway telecommunications towers and fell trees onto power lines which results in outages. One of the most common causes of data loss as a result of storms comes from the subsequent power outages.

Short-circuits and electrical surges from strong winds or lightning strikes are definitely damaging to PCs, external hard drives, server systems and networking equipment. That’s right, networking equipment too. Slower transmission rates and wifi signals are all symptoms of storm effects since internet routers, often wired, can be affected by power surges. Surge protectors for wired devices are essential. Beforehand, portable devices like laptops and phones should be charged up and then unplugging electrical cords during a storm is a good idea to disconnect from potentially deadly current.

Heat (overheating & fire-damage)

Beating sun, overheating the city

The summer sun is welcomed by many, but heatwaves? Not so much. Extreme heat can be very bad for digital devices.

Prevent overheating by storing PCs and electronics in a cool, dry location in an air-conditioned room. In warm air, the fans inside devices work overtime and while core components may be ok, the power supply units often struggle and burn out in extreme conditions. Keeping devices cool helps with on-board electronics and also hard drive functionality over time. When it comes to wildfires, extreme temperatures often cause unrecoverable damage to devices. However, if data storage components are protected some recovery is often possible with expert attention.

Above all, the best tip one can give for effective extreme weather disaster prevention is to back up! This includes transferring data from PCs, laptops and cellphones to lightweight storage like external hard drives, USB flash drives or cloud storage services. Having some or all data copied on an easy-to-move secondary device can go a long way to recovery efforts when needed.

And when extreme weather strikes – don’t panic! Focusing on safety and taking precautions and dealing with damaged media promptly before handing over to the experts can go a long way towards successful recovery. Data is resilient. It’s what we’re here to help with!

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Category: data loss prevention, helpful hints

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