Hurricane Season & IT Preparedness

As Hurricane Florence wreaks havoc in the Carolina’s, it is an important reminder that your IT infrastructure is highly vulnerable to nature’s fury. This includes the very real possibility of extended power and internet outages, as well as physical destruction of IT equipment and loss of critical data. Keeping your residents and staff safe in such during event is of course your primary concern, but what preparation can you do to minimize the impact of these major storms on your IT systems and data?

Here are a few tips to help you prepare for the worst while hoping for the best…

1. Charge your batteries. This one is easy, but it is often overlooked. Charge your phones, laptops, tablets, med carts, treatment carts, and anything that is vital to daily operations and communication. Charge and stockpile any extra batteries you may have and purchase additional USB portable power packs for your phones (don’t forget to charge them).

2. Check your generator (or get one). Ensure that you have a backup generator to power your facilities critical infrastructure with up to one weeks’ worth of fuel on hand.

3. Test your UPS (do you have one?) As part of your preparations, you should test your Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS). This is the box that all of your network & server equipment power cables are plugged into. If you do not have one, this is the first purchase you should make in disaster preparedness.

4. Practice data disaster mode. Check your disaster recovery solution against HIPAA guidelines to validate that it is compliant. A HIPAA-compliant disaster recovery plan must state how operations will be conducted in an emergency and which workforce members are responsible for carrying out those operations. The plan must also explain how data will be moved without violating HIPAA standards and how confidential data and safeguards for that data will be restored.  

5. Get a hotspot. In the event the internet goes out, have mobile hotspots ready to go. These are usually purchased in the same manner as a phone and you can purchase affordable data plans to use in an emergency. Many of today’s smartphones can double as hotspots using the cellular phone network to reach the internet and connecting with your PC via it’s wifi radio (no need for your wifi network or ISP connection to be functional). Check your phone for this feature.

6. Protect your hardware. Move all digital hardware to an interior space away from windows and above potential flood height. Anchor heavy rack mounted network/IT gear to prepare against high winds and deploy sandbags around your data center room if flooding is a potential issue.

7. Data backups. Data stored locally on devices at your facility is at risk during a major weather event like a hurricane. Make sure that your data is being backed up, ideally offsite or in the cloud. Double check with your MSP (Managed Service Provider) and verify that they are backing up your data and the timing of your backups. If all of the census data for an LTPAC facility is stored on one PC and that PC gets ruined in the storm, no amount of work to retrieve it will help.

8. Consider colocation. If you are in an area with a higher risk for catastrophic weather events, it is wise to consider a “CoLo”. CoLo providers give you the ability to rent physical space for your mission critical hardware at their securely managed data center in a different geography. This means that your hardware and the data residing on it will be safe in case your facility sustains damage during a storm.

Vcpi can help you & your staff with disaster preparedness planning. We will evaluate your current IT situation, make recommendations as needed, and work with you to implement them so you are prepared for an event that we all truly hope never happens.