3 Tips to Ensure Power Outages Don't Cloud Your Summer

June 15, 2015  
The average number of power outages in the U.S. doubled from 100 per year from 2005 to 2009, to about 200 per year from 2010 to 2013, according to the Inside Energy reporting group. And, the pace of outages shows no sign of slowing down. 

Summer is a particularly ripe time for outages as multiple seasonal activities and events strain otherwise adequate resources. Not only do more homes and businesses use air conditioning, which strains already overloaded electrical grids, but people travel and work remotely more often.  This means there's a bigger load on business networks as employees check messages, view files, answer queries and more. And, don’t forget about the summer thunderstorms, which can bring lightning strikes and flooding without warning.

Summer outages used to be nightmares for IT professionals because of the limitations of back-up technology, which required more manual work and offered comparatively infinitesimal storage capacity. It was always a game of trying to stay ahead of the next disruption. Fortunately, today we have the cloud, as well as powerful tools that automate many backup tasks. 

Despite technological advancements, data-protection planning is still needed for several reasons. Here are the top three: 

1. "In the cloud" is not "out of the woods." Just ask customers who lost data during the 2011 outage of Amazon's EC2 cloud services. Although the total amount of data lost was small relative to the total stored, the loss wasn't so small to the individuals and businesses directly impacted. Be sure to make multiple copies of critical data and ask your cloud vendor about their backup/recovery strategy.

2. No plan is perfect. No matter how comprehensive your contingency plan is, there's probably something you haven't planned for. Even Netflix found itself in this situation. The EC2 outage caused Netflix to go down in select areas for up to three hours. In a "lessons learned" blog post afterward, the company’s team broke down what happened with its cloud provider and its own plans for moving forward. It announced how it was changing its protection plan to be more resilient. This resulted in the automation of tasks and gave rise to parameters to test and tune the system for larger-scale outages. 

3. Don't count on devices. Storage devices such as hard drives and Secure Digital Cards can hold a considerable amount of data, but they shouldn't be used as long-term storage devices because they are sensitive to damage. If you have employees using them for fieldwork, photography and other endeavors, make sure they are moving critical files to your network for backup as soon as possible.

Be safe this summer driving, boating, swimming, hiking—or whatever else you have planned. But be safe at work too, starting with data protection. Outages and crashes are becoming as commonplace in summer as sunshine and lemonade. 

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