10 Years After Hurricane Katrina, Are Businesses Better Prepared?

10 Years After Hurricane Katrina, Are Businesses Better Prepared?

By Chris Brunau

2015 marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

While the greatest casualty of this storm were the lives lost, there was also significant damage to businesses, telecommunications, and an entire city.

On the business side, a key issue is planning. You need to have a business continuity plan to ensure that you can recover and keep working as quickly as possible.

Marty Desmond was a healthcare recruiter in New Orleans. The Friday before the storm, he had handwritten notes and prospect information ready to transfer into his computer. He was in a rush to get to a baseball game with friends that night, and he left the information safely in his desk for Monday. Or so he thought.

He remembers thinking, “wow, I’m going to make so much money next week.”

Then, disaster struck and Marty lost several weeks of work and thousands of dollars in recruitment leads.

“I had probably $25,000 in commission ready, I had found several hard-to-find candidates for several positions. Had I known, I would have taken everything with me out of my office.”

Even one day of delaying backup can be catastrophic, like in Marty’s case. In the event of another disaster, would you be able to keep your business running, or at least avoid losing sensitive information?

It always comes down to planning, according to Marty. “I was a Marine Embassy Guard, and we had a saying; ‘proper prior planning prevents poor performance.’”

Looking back, Marty notes that a proper backup solution could have prevented data loss and allowed him to keep the work he lost.

However, even with proper planning, there are still unforeseen issues that can hit your business.

“What I’m also seeing with CryptoLocker, and ransomware, and these types of things, I’ve seen too many people go out of business around me because of things that were out of their control.”

Downtime threats come in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes there’s no easy way to stop them, but instead it’s how you react and recover when they hit.

“You can’t have the philosophy of getting to it later,” Marty noted. “But even if I had input those records, I wouldn’t have been able to get to them. The office was essentially gone.”

This brings up another issue with backup for many businesses impacted by the hurricane. According to research from the FDIC, recovery efforts were hampered for some institutions because the backup sites were too close to the primary location, and therefore affected by the storm as well. With a hybrid cloud solution, your data would be held both locally and in a secure cloud, safe from disaster.

If your servers are under water and power is out for days or weeks, you have to be able to access that information. If your data is only stored on a local server, it’s likely too vulnerable.

Again, it’s about planning.

In a recent Datto partner podcast, Crisis Communication Expert Gerard Braud, shared his experience from Hurricane Katrina, and how he warned New Orleans of the imminent danger for the city. According to Braud, proper planning could have helped prevent the level of damage.

“The city should have known that was going to flood,” said Braud.

He noted with the scale of the disaster, everybody in the city was impacted, regardless of the size of their business.

“Another problem that happened is there were businesses who had backup plans in high-rise buildings and they were dependent on backup generators fired by gasoline. Three days into this crisis, when you try to bring your gasoline truck in (as your disaster plan calls for) the National Guard commandeers it,” said Braud.
In Braud’s opinion, it’s imperative to help customers with a vulnerability assessment to understand what their possible issues can be when it comes to a natural disaster, someone tampering with IT, hacking, power outages, etc. In this example, a proper assessment would bring attention to your need for gasoline, and the likelihood of a shortage during a large-scale disaster.

This further strengthens the importance to not only have a business continuity plan, but to make sure you test it. You have to be familiar with the process and guarantee it works before it’s too late.

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