Hurricane Sandy knocked out power and destroyed homes, cars and municipalities. For companies that didn’t plan in advance, the damages could prove very costly.
The Sept. 11 attacks and disasters like Hurricane Katrina have educated businesses on the importance of backing up data and making sure they have contingencies in place, so they can still function when power is out at the home office, or when employees are unable to get to work. But most businesses still don’t get the message.
Dave Rosenbaum runs Real Time Computer Services Inc., a small IT consulting firm based in Ardsley. He said most of his clients don’t do enough to prepare and wind up calling him for help after disaster strikes.
“Companies need to treat it like an insurance policy,” Rosenbaum said. “You need to make the determination of what you have to do ahead of a disaster. You need to determine what critical aspects have to keep going and make those plans.”
If a company’s data or encryption is deleted, it can be a catastrophe, which is why it’s important for companies to have backups. Disaster after disaster has taught Rosenbaum to be prepared.
“We must have access to computers, phone and Internet service,” Rosenbaum said. “After a winter storm knocked out service to Westchester, we invested in our business to put in place a natural gas generator that supports our clients. We have separate Internet circuits coming in.”
Rosenbaum lost power, but a generator ran his business for four days. He said most clients simply don’t or won’t put the investment into their business to keep it running.
“There has to be a business justification,” Rosenbaum said. “With technology, you can do anything with enough time and enough money but no one has enough of either. If everyone had tons of money to spend, they would go ahead and build disaster sites.”
Sandy will probably cause companies to rethink their disaster plans, Rosenbaum believes, particularly with so many factors that caused companies to have some form of service out.
“How much interruption can you withstand before you impact your own business?” Rosenbaum said. “You don’t know how bad a disaster is going to be. The better plan, the more readily you recover. If you don’t have backups in the office that could determine how long you’re out of the office.”
Compufit Computer Corp. L.L.C., based out of Pleasantville, faced a similar situation as Real Time Computer Services in the wake of Sandy. Leading up to the storm, the company advised its clients to shutdown its services.
Dan Lansen of Compufit said that a lot of companies have disaster recovery plans but lack a business continuity plan.
“Some have solutions in place,” Lansen said. “But it can be very expensive.”
To establish a business continuity plan, Compufit partners with data centers so they can replicate a business environment to a data center and allow clients to access to their data. In a disaster recovery plan, the company makes sure its data is secure and stored in an offsite facility or the data is stored on a server that is not in a region impacted by a disaster.
“Disaster recovery can be fairly easy to implement,” John Nunes of Compufit said.
While Compufit itself was not impacted, Nunes and Lansen said it has been mayhem since Sandy hit.
“People experienced significant damage to work facilities,” Lansen said. “A lot of our clients experienced outages so if even if their Internet is up, well if the power is out, then they are out of luck.”
In the wake of Sandy, Lansen believes that more companies will develop a continuity plan, realizing that it justifies the return on investment, particularly with widespread prolonged power outages.
“I think the lesson learned here is that business continuity is something you need to prepare for ahead of storms like Sandy, not after,” Lansen said.
Xand, a data center and managed-services provider based out of Hawthorne, rents seats on a monthly basis in its business continuity center in the wake of emergency. The company also has an office in Waterbury, Conn. Xand said that 150 more people than usual were working out of the company’s centers.
“I think this was a wakeup call to a lot of businesses,” Xand Vice President Ralph Thomas said. “They need to have a business continuity plan formulated and action plan in place.”
Jennifer Bissell contributed to this story.