Monday, October 29, 2012

Computer and Electronics Tips for a Potential Power Outage

As Hurricane Sandy headed rapidly towards the New England, I received several calls from clients asking what to do in preparation for a power outage. Every business should have a comprehensive disaster prevention and recovery plan that includes appropriate redundancies, but with the storm at hand, some basic strategies are in order.

Here are some of the last minute tips that I shared with them which hope will also prove helpful to you:
  • Unplug If power goes out, browns out (dim lights), or is flickering, unplug computers and electronics from the wall. Damaging power surges/spikes often occur when power comes back on, and during thunderstorms it's not uncommon for surges to enter through cable and phone lines. Shutting systems down is not sufficient. While surge protectors are important, they may not provide enough protection during a major storm or electrical event.
  • Keep dry -  If you're in a location prone to flooding, be sure that your computers are at least a couple of inches off of the floor. Keep in mind that floods don't only occur in basements. A leaky roof or burst pipe can bring water damage to any floor of a building.
  • Backup - Is your data thoroughly backed up? Is the backup stored somewhere safe? If the power is still stable, you may have time to do a quick backup. Think about throwing a few critical things that you may need over the next few days onto an external drive. If it’s too late fot that, let this be a strong reminder to get your backup procedures in order once the storm clears.
  • Plan B - Do you have a have a hard copy of your employee, customer and vendor contact lists? Depending upon the nature of your business, you'll want to keep the appropriate parties appraised of the situation. That can be really difficult to do if you don't know how to reach them. If you your Email system and/or website is hosted onsite, consider alternate ways to communicate. If your systems are hosted in a data center, be sure that people have access to instructions for logging in remotely. If your phone system is down, the provider may be able to either forward calls or post a recorded message.
  •  UPS - For the future, think about purchasing uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) for your most vital systems. This is basically battery backup. Security systems usually have one built in and they even have them in some garage door openers now (that was a bummer getting locked out of the garage during last year’s snow storm). You’ll want to purchase units with automatic voltage regulation (AVR); these also kick in when there’s too much or too little power. While a UPS may only keep you up and running for a short time, they do a far better job than regular surge protectors and may provide you enough time to at least save work and shut down properly. Keep in mind that without a UPS, most business phone systems will immediately go down. Batteries need to be replaced every couple of years, so be sure to test UPSs periodically.
  •  Insurance - After the storm, take the time to review your commercial or homeowner's insurance policy. There are often significant limits on computers and electronics, but most carriers offer special technology riders that may even include coverage for data recovery. This small investment may pay off sooner than you think.
If you experience a loss, feel free to give me a call. I’m happy to provide quick advice or answer a brief question. I unfortunately have a lot of experience dealing both insurance companies and bailing people out of disasters large and small. Either way, it's probably time to review your disaster plans, and if you don't have one give Winter Solutions a call ensure so you can start putting one in place for next time.
May your basements be dry, and may your electricity continue to flow!

- Dovid

Dovid Winter is Principal Consultant of Winter Solutions and has been providing hands-on IT management services to small-business, non-profit and education since 1986. In addition to website development and hosting services, Winter Solutions' offers an array of managed IT services. Whether you are looking for assistance with a single project or to outsource your entire IT department, Winter Solutions has a solution to meet your needs. Contact us at 781 821-0000.


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