by Mark Hoekzema

How to leverage weather to build a disaster recovery plan

Feb 16, 2018
Backup and RecoveryDisaster RecoveryIT Strategy

Meteorologists can help businesses understand the seasonal weather threats they may face – both the extreme potential and frequency with which certain things could occur.

Each year, business continuity and disaster recovery professionals must plan for an increasing array of threats. As risks expand and diversify, professionals must incorporate more in-depth information into their disaster recovery plans to best prepare for the worst scenarios. While our recent business continuity survey found that cybersecurity is the top risk on most professionals’ minds, there is a more common and predictable threat: Severe weather.

Severe weather and disaster recovery plans

If you create a disaster recovery plan that doesn’t include the threat of severe weather, you’re risking financial, operational, and human resources. Some severe weather threats are constant. Lightning, for example, strikes the Earth’s surface nearly 100 times every second. These strikes occur all over the globe. While you might not have people in harm’s way during a thunderstorm, a well-placed lightning bolt can knock out power to your operations. While this doesn’t sound like a big deal, outages actually cost enterprises an astounding $700 billion per year. Also, did you know that an unplanned data center outage costs companies nearly $9,000 per minute? When you stack up the risks to business continuity, dollar for dollar, severe weather is a front-runner in disruption.

How to plan for severe weather

Severe weather and natural disasters are very real threats to all businesses – both big and small. However, the types of weather you should build into your disaster recovery plan depend on your industry, location, and size. Disaster recovery plans are done years in advance to protect corporations from severe weather. By understanding your location’s climate, your business is better equipped to know what type of threats are headed its way.

Different industries have different concerns. For example, oil drilling operations are more interested in maritime weather conditions, winds, and cyclones while utility companies are more concerned with thunderstorms.

Organizations must remember to take geographic location and size into account as well. Assets along rivers face different threats than those in the mountains or on ocean coasts. It’s important to include the climatological probabilities for certain weather threats to occur and the threat that each event could have on your business. You also should remember to plan for each season. A location on the coast of New England should have plans in place for flooding in the spring, hurricanes in the summer and fall, and blizzards in the winter.

Finally, the breadth of your operations is an important factor when it comes to creating a disaster recovery plan that sufficiently accounts for severe weather and natural disasters. If you have multiple locations and a power outage occurs, how do you communicate with the other locations? If you’re a utility company, how do you know it’s safe to send personnel out to check different pieces of equipment?

Disaster mitigation

Disaster mitigation is another important part of any disaster recovery plan. Disaster mitigation includes minimizing the actual damage you’ll need to recover from on an event-by-event basis. This aspect of your plan can’t be done in advance as it differs by event type and severity. When it comes to disaster mitigation, it’s important for businesses to pay less attention to historical weather or climate records and turn towards real-time weather intelligence instead.

Although utilizing weather data might sound complicated, today’s technology makes it easy. There are a few different ways that organizations leverage weather data. Our weather API arms decision-makers with real-time weather observations, hourly forecasts, severe weather alerts, radar and satellite maps, and more. Other organizations use weather tracking software with easy-to-use tools that closely monitor incoming storms. Whether you use an API or a weather application, you’ll need real-time data, forecasts, and alerts to best support your disaster recovery plan.

When you rely on real-time data, you can access current conditions and make more informed decisions during a weather event. Remember, real-time data is only as strong as the network you access it from. The closer the nearest stations are to your operation, the more accurate the data will be. Hyperlocal networks have thousands of stations blanketing the country, rather than just at airports or broadcast centers.

Short term forecasts are used to refine a business recovery plan as a severe weather event approaches. It’s important to note that not all events will be the same and your recovery plan may need to shift focus and resources as the threat timing and intensity becomes apparent. This is also the case with post event forecasts – the timing of when recovery efforts can start may depend on the forecast for the region after the damage has been done.

Alerts are also key to utilize in your disaster recovery. Having automated alerts for your operational areas and the weather events that will impact your business is a great way to enhance your disaster recovery plan.

One last important step organizations across all industries can take to ensure weather-related disaster recovery is to rely on an expert. Meteorologists can help businesses understand the seasonal weather threats they may face – both the extreme potential and frequency with which certain things could occur. Businesses would use the probability to determine their willingness to accept some loss (or no loss) and create plans that can prohibit or mitigate that loss or disruption and then have a plan for getting things back to working order.