Predictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) say an above-normal season of bad weather should be expected over the summer into the fall. While the Atlantic has seen some short-lived storms so far the bulk of the season’s activity has yet to arrive. Each year the U.S. government agency keeps on top of ocean, waterway and weather conditions and issues an outlook ahead of the season to help with preparations for annual severe weather. It continues to be a tough year on multiple fronts (read: global pandemic) but the outlook is a good reminder to be aware of the effects various types of severe weather can have on our technology and data.
From the time summer starts until later in the fall each year the East Coast and surrounding areas are threatened by an increase in severe weather and natural disasters. This time of year can include not only tropical storms, hurricanes and their related after-effects like flooding but also the summer months bring heatwaves and temperature increases. In a year that is already facing serious challenges battling the global COVID-19 pandemic and trying to reopen economies, attention should be paid to taking precautions for the season.
People rely on the work of forecasters and research institutions like the NOAA to issue their annual outlook and regularly make predictions. The above-normal rating takes into account current atmospheric conditions and combines data with computer models for increasing accuracy. This year new satellites will be part of the effort after being launched into orbit last June. The Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate (COSMIC-2) fleet of satellites are feeding data from space about storm system patterns and will contribute greatly to the accuracy of predictions being made about storm strength and patterns.
The heightened weather systems of the season are potentially not a good time for our tech. Environmental conditions and effects can add strain to technology devices and systems small and large and that’s bad for digital storage. Beyond the direct physical threat from hurricanes and tropical storms, power surges, flooding, fires and heatwaves can all effectively destroy data. When computer systems and digital storage are affected the impact to business operations can be dire.
When disaster strikes and access to data is hindered, all may not be lost. It should be known that data is resilient. The NOAA forecast is a good reminder every hurricane season to be prepared. Learning about potential threats to data and protocols to follow in the event of unsettled weather can be the difference between complete data loss and a successful recovery.
Here are some scenarios and strategies to help you protect data when wild weather hits:
Before you build a boat and sail away, relocate all tech equipment and cables to a suitable height off the ground. If your equipment is damaged by water, do not: power on the devices, open waterlogged media, attempt to dry out the media, or clean up the water. Leave the digital technology alone; messing with saturated electronics could result in electrocution! Seal damaged media in an airtight container.
Data loss from power outages is most commonly a result of short-circuiting and subsequent fires from electrical surges. During a storm, be sure to unplug all electronic cords, thus disconnecting the devices from a potential deadly current.
Store computers and their associated devices in a cool, dry location in an air-conditioned room to prevent overheating. If you wouldn’t leave your child or dog in a hot car, don’t leave your technology there either! “Keeping it cool” will not only preserve your sanity, but your hard drive functionality and data.
Of course the best disaster prevention practice is to back up all your devices. This includes transferring the data on desktop PCs, laptops, tablets, and cellphones to simple, lightweight devices such as external hard drives, USB flash drives, CDs, DVDs, or cloud storage.
Last, but not least: don’t panic.
When data disaster strikes, we’re here to help with recovery!