Hurricanes are grave and terrifying acts of nature and one of the benefits of living in the Chicago region is that hurricanes just don’t happen here. When a small business that is in the path of a hurricane makes preparations for the oncoming storm, making a full backup copy of the organization’s critical data to be stored out of the path of the of the storm should be at the top of the list.

Here’s the problem: not every type of physical damage concern gives enough advanced warning. In fact, most of the storms that affect the midwest don’t give any warning at all. So, when (if ever) do you actually make that backup copy and verify that it actually going to save you? If you aren’t the one responsible for doing backups, how do you know the business-saving backups are ever getting done?

In the Chicago region, even though there was no imminent hurricane-related danger, we were hearing about Hurricane Florence for at least a week before it made landfall in North Carolina. That advanced notice doesn’t generally come with a tornado or a fire. There might be a little notice in the case of the flood since it usually takes an inordinate amount of rain either locally or upriver, but a 1997 storm landed 17 inches of rain on the western suburbs overnight which was unexpected to say the least.

To be clear, there was a different story when it came to Hurricane Michael. That storm didn’t give as much warning as Florence and moved very quickly through the Florida panhandle into Georgia and South Carolina.

There are real-world Chicago region examples of physical disasters to an organization’s data that interrupted a business’ ability to operate. Here’s an example of a crisis that turned out to be a very difficult data recovery effort:

That 1997 storm mentioned above had the Fox River flooded well over its banks and water not only reached the commercial buildings near the river, but the depth was knee-deep in some of those offices. The building still had power and the server was literally floating in the water. Office staff had retrieved the backups from the bottom drawer of the fire-proof filing cabinet. Unfortunately, water/mud soaked backups aren’t optimal. However, after assembling all of the required infrastructure in our office, we were able to get the server to turn on, but the server drive system was unusable. After replacing the server drives, the next and most critical step was to restore the data from the backup. In spite of the odds being completely against us, a fully dried out backup was able to connect and restore to the new server drive system.

It pretty much came down to luck. What if the backup failed to be accessed due to water damage? Then, no recovery occurs. No recovery, no data. No data, no business.

Almost every small business owner will confess that they don’t know for sure if their current data backup and disaster recovery plan would enable them to quickly and easily get their computer network back up and running in the event of a major disaster.

As a matter of fact, most have NEVER done a test restore of their data and are purely hoping that their current IT person is “doing the right thing” to protect and back up their data.

IT is more critical than ever. That was intentional. IT is it when it comes to keeping business in business.

How well you protect IT can determine if your business survives in the case of a real emergency.