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How to Prepare Your IT for Wildfires in California
Wildfires in California are a serious concern for any business. They present both a danger to the people working at your organization and to your operations as a whole. Many businesses create plans for the former concern, which is, of course, the most important. However, the latter, continuing operations during and after a wildfire, can be overlooked, especially concerning IT. Below are some tips on creating an IT disaster plan for California wildfires.
1) Analyze Your Vulnerabilities
Consider how your information technology would be affected by a natural disaster. For example, do you have server hardware on-site in your main office? Do you rely on Internet connectivity to work? If you have IT resources outside of your headquarters, where are they located?
Understanding your vulnerabilities is essential to creating an IT disaster management plan. By thinking through what would happen if your physical location(s) were shut down, you can prepare your business for lasting operations during and after a wildfire.
Keep in mind that IT disaster planning doesn’t just revolve around safeguarding computers and data. More important are the essential personnel who help keep your IT infrastructure running. Hopefully, you already have a plan in place to ensure the safety of your staff. If you don’t, that should be your number one priority.
Once you have planned for your team’s safety, consider how they will resume work during and after the disaster. Will they need to connect remotely? If so, how will you enable them to do so?
2) Set Priorities
In the event of a disaster, there are scenarios that may prohibit your company from immediately resuming full operations. To determine what business elements are most important to get up and running again quickly, set and communicate priorities beforehand.
For example, perhaps the top priority is to get everyone connected to your network and each other again. Or it may be to ensure your proprietary data is both secured and accessible.
Understanding these priorities will help you to create your IT disaster prevention and disaster recovery plan. It will also help your team members to maintain clarity in the event that things don’t go exactly as planned. They can make decisions on the fly more easily when they have pre-determined goals.
3) Plan Redundancy
One of the most important elements of any IT disaster management plan is redundancy. IT resources can become unavailable in the event of a disaster. This can include hardware hosted at your place of business, overall network infrastructure, off-site resources, and more.
For example, if your business currently uses a terrestrial-based Internet connection, you may find yourself disconnected in the event an earthquake or wildfire damages nearby network infrastructure. Unfortunately, repairing damage can take a long time depending on the extent of the destruction. A great solution to avoid this vulnerability is to have two Internet circuits, a fiber optic connection (terrestrial) and a fixed wireless circuit (air), that issues automatic failover via a SD-WAN device in the event one experiences an outage. Having duel Internet circuits also ensures a business’s hosted VoIP connections remain active during a wildfire.
All in all, establishing IT redundancy ensures business continuity in the case of a wildfire or other natural disaster.
4) Plan for Data Continuity
No matter what business you are in, data is important. Perhaps your business is quite literally based on collecting and analyzing data. Perhaps you use customer information to make critical marketing decisions. Regardless of how you use the data, having access to critical business information is vital.
If you let it be a vulnerability, you may find your bottom line significantly impacted when a wildfire hits California.
Thus, cloud-based data back-ups are an absolute must for any business. If your business isn’t currently leveraging the cloud, it is time to get started. Additionally, you should have at least one back up drive located off-site. Issuing nightly backups of your key data is also strongly encouraged.
5) Evaluate Your Insurance
For many businesses, IT resources represent a significant investment. You need the proper insurance coverage to ensure that you can reestablish your operations promptly without risking your cash flow. This is especially true for California businesses given the state’s frequency of catastrophic events including wildfires and earthquakes.
Policies such as business interruption, loss of use, and extended coverage are worth significant considerations for any CA-based business. Insurance should be a component of every business’s IT disaster plan.
Getting Ready for the Next Wildfire
Whether you are ready or not, you may be affected by a wildfire in the very near future. It is best to have a plan in place so you’re prepared to handle the situation. Having a strong IT disaster management plan can make all the difference in the world.
Finding the right resources, such as GeoLinks’ GeoLit Bundle, will help you ensure your business continues operations even after a disaster.
This video shows the 2019 Innovation in Networking Awards at CENIC‘s Annual Conference. GeoLinks was honored to be awarded the Christine Haska Distinguished Service Award in recognition of our immediate and effective response to ensure emergency connectivity to communities and organizations affected by catastrophic wildfires.
ALERTWildfire, a consortium of the University of Nevada Reno, UC San Diego and the University of Oregon has officially partnered with Camarillo-based telecom GeoLinks to deploy wildfire detection, prevention and situational awareness systems across California.
Demand for the expansion was inspired by a new wildfire camera pan-tilt-zoom technology developed by Graham Kent, director of the Nevada Seismological Lab at the University of Nevada Reno, that became instrumental in both the response and containment of the 2017 Lilac Fires in San Diego County.
GeoLinks plans to deploy 28 additional such cameras by year’s end.
“ALERTWildfire is excited to work with GeoLinks as their resilient communications network throughout California enables a rapid deployment of fire cameras in critical regions of the state,” said Kent. “No other service provider is able to scale to this urgent task.”
Located on GeoLinks’ vertical assets in Southern California including Ventura County, the cameras will send data over GeoLinks’ network to UC San Diego. There, WIFIRE, an integrated system for wildfire analysis, will analyze the data to create real-time simulations, wildfire path predictions and visualizations of wildfire behavior. The system ultimately will provide strategic advantages for early fire detection, situational awareness for first responders, fire mapping, predictive simulations and evacuation planning, GeoLinks said in a news release.
“The fact remains that California is now faced with wildfires year-round,” said Skyler Ditchfield, co-founder and CEO of GeoLinks. “Wildfire detection, prevention, and situational awareness systems provide a solution that could make an immediate, lasting, and radical impact on the spread of fires and associated costs, damages and casualties. … If we had assets installed prior to the Camp Fire’s ignition, for example, we could have saved countless lives. This is really the future and next step in advanced firefighting and suppression.”
Having a disaster recovery plan in place is one of the most essential parts of running a successful business. Just like business liability insurance, disaster recovery planning for your network ensures ongoing business continuity. Whether your disaster recovery plan is for site mirroring, load balancing or just staying online, it is the responsible thing to do for all business owners, CIOs, and IT managers.
This month, California witnessed one of the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in state history – the Camp Fire. Located in the city of Paradise, California, this tragic disaster resulted in massive loss of life, structure, property, infrastructure, and habitat. Southern California also experienced two horrific wildfires, the Woolsey Fire and Hill Fire. These fires tore through both Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, taking down just near everything in their paths. Cities near the burn areas, while not officially evacuated, experienced county-wide network outages. That said, businesses with a disaster recovery plan have proven resilient. So, what exactly is a disaster recovery plan?
What is A Disaster Recovery Plan?
Disaster recovery planning entails outlining how to recover your business operations during or after a disaster. No business is immune to disaster, so having a plan in place protects your business from large financial losses, and in extreme cases, bankruptcy. While it may appear to be a daunting task, business owners will be happy they had one ready for when disaster strikes. So how do you go about planning for a disaster? First, it’s worth exploring Business Interruption insurance, this coverage insures the revenue losses a business might suffer in the case of a disaster. Next, consider following this quick checklist provided by Q Finance: The Ultimate Resource:
Business Impact Analysis:
- This is where you identify what parts of the business will be most impacted by a disaster.
- Calculate how much this will cost you if you lost them in a disaster for a day, a week, and two weeks.
- Next, identify the maximum threshold your business can tolerate before being threatened with closure.
- List the minimum activities required to deliver identified parts of the business.
- Make sure adequate resources are available to provide those activities.
Risk Assessment Analysis:
- Identify what the risks are to the organization, such as loss of staff, suppliers, IT systems, and telecommunications.
- List plans already in place to deal with each risk.
- List plans that need to be put in place to deal with each risk.
- Assign a “likelihood to occur” score or probability to each risk.
Decide on what action to take for each identified risk:
- Deal with a risk by planning to operate at a minimum level.
- Tolerate the risk if the cost of reducing operations outweighs the benefits.
- Transfer the risk to a third party or take out insurance.
- Shut down / terminate the activity.
Write then share the plan(s):
- Start by writing a general plan, then decide if you need more detailed plans within that one.
- Write a scope and purpose for each plan.
- Identify the resources and contacts that own each plan and are responsible for it.
- List their contact details.
- List tasks, processes, and procedures used to respond to an incident.
- For business continuity, list the identified critical activities, how to recover them, and the timeline involved.
Test, update, and maintain plans:
- Plans must be tested. That is the only way to ensure that the plan can work in the real world as well as it works on paper.
- Involve staff and have them go through the plan and recommend improvements.
Telecommunications and Disaster Recovery Planning
The modern world has become extremely interconnected, especially now with online transactions largely taking over physical transactions. With most business activities occurring over a telecommunications network, companies depend on the reliability of their Internet connections now more than ever for business continuity. Not having a backup Internet connection, or one that guarantees uptime and redundancy, can cause major financial losses.
For example, if a brick and mortar store or restaurant loses their Internet connection, their POS System will crash. If a businesses POS system is out of order, they will be unable to charge customers for products and services. A major disaster might mean your business is delayed or completely halted for days or weeks at a time. This is, if a proper plan is not in place.
What if you are an e-commerce company? If you lose your Internet connection you will not have access to the online orders customers are placing. Delaying processing orders will delay shipping orders, which will result in upset customers and a domino effect that is sure to affect your ability to gain new customers.
At a minimum, organizations should have a disaster recovery plan for their telecommunications infrastructure. There are several ways telecommunications companies can guarantee uptime. GeoLinks’ ClearFiber™ network, for example, offers a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that guarantees 99.999% uptime. To achieve 100% uptime, businesses are able to bundle in technologies such as LTE failover.
Long Term Evolution (LTE) and Business Continuity
LTE became a reality in 2010, and it was a big deal for the telecommunications industry. It provided much-needed low-latency, high-speed, reliability and power efficiency to wireless networks. LTE networks are leaps and bounds better than their 2G/3G predecessors.
LTE is the reason why we can have a gig economy with Uber, Lyft, and delivery services like GrubHub and DoorDash. It is also a wireless equivalent to a physical line. A well-designed network utilizes various types of technologies that can be depended on during different situations. For example, GeoLinks’ dedicated fixed wireless network, ClearFiber™, is connected to a fiber-optic backbone, and has the ability to failover to a LTE connection. Switching over to LTE is not like switching over to traditional mobile networks. Its low latency and fast speeds provide you with uninterrupted service, especially in times of disaster.
GeoLinks is proud to report our network has remained connected during California’s catastrophic fires. In fact, we are honored to be servicing CAL FIRE and Red Cross Evacuation Centers across Ventura County. If there is one thing California businesses should take away from the new year-round fire season, it’s that you must have a disaster recovery plan in place. At the bare minimum, have a plan for your telecommunications infrastructure and how to connect to the Internet.
To learn more about GeoLinks Disaster Recovery Solutions, call and talk to one of the GeoLinks’ team members today! (888) 225-1571