What you Need to Know About Technology Disaster Preparedness

Most geographical areas have some form of common weather phenomenon threatening them. Unfortunately, disasters pose a huge threat to technology devices and user data. Consider a hurricane that changed direction and took out your home with all of your belongings. This would include computers and everything on them.

Natural disasters are often swift, and sometimes cannot be outmaneuvered, making them a very real threat. This post discusses some things you can do to increase your technology disaster preparedness.

What you Need to Know About Technology Disaster Preparedness

Natural disasters are a serious threat even though they are not an every day occurrence. This is because the damage they inflict is typically extensive and devastating. Another reason why the threat they introduce needs to be addressed is that they are often impossible to predict, unlike normal wear-and-tear on a device.

For instance, having a computer fail after ignoring six months of issues should not be surprising. By contrast, weather events can change suddenly, things like fires can happen most unexpectedly, so it is wise to prepare for events of this nature ahead of time.

There are three main things to consider when planning for technology disaster preparedness:

  • Loss of power
  • Lack of internet
  • File access

Loss of power

There are lots of weather phenomena that take out power: fire, flooding, winds, and even lightning. When the electricity goes out, technology devices without batteries will stop working. This includes:

  • Desktop computers
  • Monitors
  • Printers
  • Webcams
  • Internet modems
  • Postage machines
  • Other miscellaneous devices

Luckily, these devices can be connected to a battery backup so they will continue to run if the power goes out. Battery backups are available in many sizes capable of managing different sized loads. In general, a battery backup provides enough time to save whatever you are working on and properly shut down the device, but not much more. This means if you need to continue to work, you will want to consider a longer term backup power solution or using a laptop rather than a desktop computer.

Certain backup batteries also have the added benefit of managing the power for devices even if you are not around. This works by installing the necessary software on the computer and having it correctly connected to the battery backup. When on battery backup, if the battery reaches a certain level and the power is still out, it will send a shutdown command to the device it is connected to so it can be properly turned off.

NOTE: Having a battery backup shut down a computer before running out of power is possible if you purchase a battery backup that includes the software required to manage this and it is set up properly. Be sure to test this feature once set up to be sure it works as expected. Also, keep in mind the more devices you connect to the battery, the shorter the amount of time the battery will last.

Devices that have batteries are also affected by power outages, though the impact is delayed. These items include:

  • Laptops and tablets
  • Cell phones
  • Other peripheral devices

Anything that runs off of battery, like laptops, tablets and phones, will continue to run when the electricity goes out until their batteries run out. There are additional ways to keep these devices running longer. First, you can purchase extra batteries for those devices where batteries can be easily swapped, like most laptops. Second, you can re-charge most of these items using external battery chargers which are easy to find and reasonably priced.

Note: The key to using secondary and external batteries is to use them regularly and recharge them to extend their life and be sure they are ready for use when you need them.

How to prepare: Check out battery backups and find the right size for your needs. There are a wide variety of different capacities, it just depends on how much you want to invest and what you think your risk of being without power is. Also, if you leave devices on, be sure to get a battery backup that includes the software that can manage power automatically.

If you need to supply power to devices longer than just temporarily, have many devices or a business to consider, you will want to invest in a more robust secondary power solution like generators and/or industrial batteries.

Lack of internet

Most people don't realize that their internet typically does not go down when the power goes out. Rather, their internet goes down because the modem supplying internet access is without power. Preventing this issue requires getting a secondary power source to the modem. A battery backup can accomplish this in the short term, but like the examples above, will only last so long.

If the internet is truly down, the easiest way to get back online is to tether a device to a smartphone configured as a hotspot. Keep in mind this allows the device to utilize the data plan connected to that phone, so if you do not have a very large data plan, be careful with your usage. Either way, if you have no other way to get back online, this is one of the easiest and fastest ways to do it.

Using a smartphone as a hotspot is accessed in the Settings menu. Not all carriers and plans support this, so be sure to test it out ahead of time.

How to prepare: Check ahead of time with your carrier to see if your current plan allows your device to be used as a hotspot. Also, configure the hotspot settings on your phone and practice connecting a device to verify it works properly. This will also allow the device to connect faster in the future if you need it.

File access

Another important item to consider is file access. If all of your files are only stored locally, and that device runs out of power or is lost in a weather event, you will lose access to all of the files stored on that device. This can easily be prevented by implementing a cloud backup plan, or using an online storage solution, so that you can access your files from another device in another location with internet access. This helps protect against device loss, loss of power, and dead batteries.

It is very important to plan ahead for this type of loss. If you wait until a weather emergency happens to initiate copying files to the cloud, or even a portable flash drive, it will already be too late. When people are evacuated they are often given just minutes to gather their loved ones and animals and get out. Many people are not home when evacuation orders are given and never get to return to gather things.

How to prepare: There are several different types of online storage and cloud-based backups. Be sure you understand the differences, for more information read this post about the benefits and restrictions of each type. Most importantly, implement a solution that fits your unique needs before a catastrophic weather event begins.

Without a doubt, preparing for a disaster takes time. Luckily, the time you put into planning and testing saves you time, money and helps prevent loss when an emergency hits. When it comes to technology, there are three main things you should focus on for preparedness: loss of power, lack of internet and file access. Each brings challenges and also has ways you can work around them. The more you do ahead of time, the more seamless the transitions will be.

As always, planning ahead provides a far greater return than your investment!