Hurricane Season Looms, Is Your Data Protected?

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According to just-released projections by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Prediction Center, there is a 75 percent chance that the Atlantic hurricane season will be worse than normal this year — indicating continued strong, ongoing hurricane activity.

The climate center projects there will be between 13 and 17 named storms this season.

Already, winds from Subtropical Storm Andrea, the first named storm of the year, fanned wildfires in Georgia and northern Florida earlier this month — more than three weeks ahead of the official June 1start of the Atlantic hurricane season.

“Now is the time to update your hurricane plan, not when the storm is bearing down on you.”

Bill Proenza
NOAA National Hurricane Center

“With expectations for an active season, it is critically important that people who live in East and Gulf coastal areas as well as the Caribbean be prepared,” said Bill Proenza, director of the NOAA National Hurricane Center, in a written statement. “Now is the time to update your hurricane plan, not when the storm is bearing down on you.”

Those who have lived through previous hurricane seasons and experienced the pain of lost data, know that backup is crucial, and that you shouldn’t underestimate the value of being prepared for a natural disaster.

“We tell clients it’s critical to have a recovery and business continuity plan,” said Luis Salazar, an attorney with Greenberg Traurig, P.A., an international law firm based in Miami.

Businesses should be asking themselves the following questions:

  • What systems do we have that we absolutely cannot afford to lose?
  • What data has the highest security and needs the highest level of protection?
  • How long can we afford to be down and what are our resources?
  • How much do we have to spend on the type of redundancy and business continuity we need?

“We tell them to incorporate that into their plans,” said Salazar, who heads the Data Privacy and Security Law Task Force. “Once you figure out what systems and what data are critical, you work backward from there and figure out what’s available for protection.”

At the very least, investigate free or inexpensive online storage, such as IBackup, Xdrive, MediaMax and Box, he said. Larger corporations like Salazar’s firm often opt for co-location sites. Greenberg Traurig uses a company called Terremark in Miami, as its backup facility, he said, which is built to be hurricane and explosion proof.

The firm also has a backup office site in western Miami, “where we have everything we need to support 50 attorneys: computers, phones and unused space dedicated for this type of situation if you can’t get access to your regular offices,” Salazar said. “It’s basically designed to be instantaneous office space.”

And in order to “diversify our risk,” the firm also has a second co-location site in Georgia. Salazar said a good rule of thumb is to have data stored 25 miles from your main location, although the distance will also depend on how quickly a company needs to get to it.

Strategies for Smaller Companies
David Schleicher, an attorney in Waco, Texas, remembers all too well that when Hurricane Katrina swept through in September 2006, the federal Court of Appeals in Texas had to move its operations to Houston, which also experienced problems with flooding. “That was a reminder to back up what can be backed up,” Schleicher said. He has also experienced first-hand having a hard drive failure and paying “a lot” to get it fixed. Schleicher said law firms “have a duty to their clients to not only protect the client information from disclosure but to take steps to protect their data.”

Schleicher selected MozyPro remote backup from Berkeley Data Systems. His law firm backs up its data every night and he receives a message in the morning with a status. As added protection, Schleicher keeps records at home and also takes a backup drive with him, but, he said, there’s a risk in doing that.

“Home is not far enough away from the office,” he said, adding that his home once had roof damage from a tornado.

With MozyPro, Schleicher can retrieve his data from another computer. “Even if the power is off here it’s good to know I can go somewhere else across town and get my backup data.”

MozyPro backs up three computers so Schleicher said all he and his other attorneys have to do is set the program to back up specific files. The cost is under $200 a year, he said.

Schleicher also works with a lawyer in McLean, Va., and they make sure to create duplicate files for clients they share. He said it’s helpful to get electronic faxes so they can be saved as files. He also taps his Web services provider, which offers some online services where Schleicher can store data. “I use that for especially critical data,” he said.

Keeping Your Data Healthly
Mission-critical industries, such as health care, cannot afford to take any chances with their data. Located in south Florida, officials at All Medical Personnel knew they didn’t want to face disruptive impacts during the hurricane season. The staffing service for health care organizations opted for “total enterprise virtualization,” which gives them Citrix access, VMware virtual machines and virtual storage software from DataCore Software Corp.

Acting as a disk server that enables virtualized storage and manages that storage, DataCore’s SANmelody is the storage infrastructure backbone that enables the system administrators at All Medical Personnel to easily maintain their storage area network (SAN).

“SANmelody works great with VMware and it eliminates the issue of being tied into a hardware environment, said Karen Swanson, IT director at All Medical Personnel, in Hollywood, Fla. “The DataCore solution supports a range of disaster recovery options and it opened up our ability to use iSCSI and/or Fibre Channel. We could mix and match any connectivity in one software solution.”

Besides a virtual infrastructure, the combination gives All Medical a utility-based enterprise in which storage, servers and applications are delivered to their business where they are needed in real-time.

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