What APAC Infrastructure & Operations professionals should learn from recent natural disasters

The recent flooding in Uttarakhand, India reminded me of last November 2012, when I was in Boston during hurricane Sandy, which ravaged the US East Coast. There’s a lot of similarity I can draw between New York and Mumbai - both have a large number of key data centers in close proximity to business centers, both are quite vulnerable to floods, and both have a history of terrorist attacks.

Regardless of continent and country, the number of natural disasters is increasing. As stated by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) Head for Asia Pacific, extreme weather events are likely to become both more frequent and severe in the future. Asia Pacific (AP) in particular is the world's most disaster prone area. Apart from Uttarakhand there have been a number of natural disasters in the last decade, including the Tsunami and Earthquakes in Japan, Floods in Thailand, and the Mumbai Floods in 2005. Floods are the most common natural disaster, followed by extreme storms and earthquakes. In the case of hurricane Sandy, dozens of data centers in the New York City metropolitan area were impacted.

As highlighted in Forrester’s Strategic Benchmarks 2013: IT Infrastructure report, 21% of IT decision-makers cite improving BC/DR as a critical priority and another 42% rank it as a high priority. In fact, BC/DR ranks 3rd as an overall IT priority, behind only server virtualization and consolidation of IT infrastructure. Unfortunately, the majority of companies aren’t currently prepared for a disaster due to poor planning and testing.

 

What it means for I&O professionals

The frequency of natural disasters is rising just as overall dependency on the internet increases, with more and more organizations increasing investments in cloud-based services and enabling a more mobile workforce. Assessing how future investments in technology can potentially help improve your organization’s BC/DR capabilities is therefore more critical than ever. Will your company have the ability to continue carrying out sales, distribution, order bookings, manufacturing or other critical business functions in the wake of a natural disaster? To ensure the answer is ‘yes’, follow these key steps:

  • Undertake a business impact assessment to reevaluate the list of applications and resources that are essential to carry out your business and what it will take to put workarounds in place when an entire site is unavailable.
  • Evaluate rapid recovery via automation to reduce the dependency and effort required to enable failover. In the last decade the entire approach to data center design has transformed due to the widespread adoption of virtualization (especially storage) and the growing interest in Converged Infrastructure.
  • As you increase investments and reliance on both public and virtual private cloud-based services, consider the potential impact that internet outages, including submarine cable cuts as one high profile example, could have on your ability to maintain business operations and what workarounds are potentially feasible.
  • Leverage the improvements being made in most available enterprise backup and recovery tools.

All evidence clearly points to an increase in the frequency and severity of natural disasters in Asia Pacific, with flooding being the biggest threat. As an I&O professional, ensuring that your organization can continue to operate during such extreme events should therefore be a top priority.

Rachel Dines, Michael Barnes and Manish Bahl contributed to this blog post.