surface, a coastal city did some correct things to back up its data. The city
had a few servers in a physically secure basement room that were
well-maintained by IT staff. One of the servers backed up important data. In
case a server failed, the backup server would run until the city could replace
the original server.
A long time
had passed since the city last experienced a hurricane. When a hurricane
finally seemed eminent, the city was ordered to evacuate until the massive
storm passed. The city manager and IT staff didn’t think much about the servers
other than placing them upon concrete blocks in case of flooding. As long as
the city implemented its emergency action plan and evacuated everyone safely,
the city manager assumed its information technology would remain safe.
hurricane passed, city staff returned to find that no massive devastation
occurred but they did experience heavy flooding. The IT staff had placed the servers
upon concrete blocks as a precautionary measure, but they learned an incredibly
hard lesson in hindsight.
Located in a
basement room, the servers sat below sea level. Although the rest of city hall
experienced moderate flood damage in places, the basement had filled up to
dangerously high levels. All of the servers—including the backup server—were
rendered unusable by the flooding.
sinking feeling, the city manager realized all critical data—including
financial, public safety, document management, email, and website data—was
gone. The only backup server got destroyed along with the others. It might be
easy for the city manager to point some blame in the direction of the IT staff,
but it was well-known that he had refused requests to explore other data backup
options because of “budget concerns.”
mayor, city council, the media, and public would be asking questions.
city manager and IT staff made a bad decision to place servers in a basement room
below sea level. But their errors go deeper than this poor choice of physical
location for the servers.
at the errors in the story above.
most obvious error out of the way, it’s clear that the servers needed to reside
on an upper floor. In addition, the server room needed to be in a room that
mitigates flood risks through preventative measures such as water leak sensors
or eliminating areas where water can enter.
locating the servers on a higher floor may have prevented this immediate
flooding disaster, it’s still not a full disaster recovery plan. Anything can
happen to your technology onsite. To guarantee full recovery of your data after
a disaster, you need an offsite data backup component to your emergency plan.
storing your data offsite in geographically dispersed locations (such as in
data centers both on the East and West coasts). Then, even if the worst
disaster wipes out your buildings, you will be able to recover and access your
The lack of
offsite data backup also signifies a larger issue—a lack of planning. The city
had developed an emergency plan and used it in the case of the hurricane. But
when was the plan developed? When was it last updated? Did it include
technology-related scenarios? What was the plan to protect data in case of a
city needed to update its emergency plan and include technology. That would
have addressed technology-related gaps in the city’s data backup, disaster
recovery, and business continuity plans. Second, the city needed regular
technology planning meetings (at least once a quarter) and ongoing monitoring
to ensure that data backups were tested and working. This regular monitoring and
planning would help the city adapt to changes (such as new technology, more staff,
building changes. etc.) and ensure that the risk of data loss is minimal.
one of the most common disasters. It can happen anywhere in the country and
devastate a city. Because citizens will rely on your city after severe
flooding, you must be operational as fast as possible. That means having access
to your data—your website, your documents, and your applications that are essential
developing a disaster recovery plan that includes an offsite data backup
component, you will lessen the risk of permanent data loss and angry “Why?” or “How?”
questions after the fact from council, the public, and others.
about your data backup and disaster recovery? Reach out to us today.
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