Content, Business continuity

Hurricane Florence: MSPs Ready for Massive Storm

MSPs in or near Hurricane Florence's projected storm path are confident in their business continuity plans, and preparing for what could be one of the largest storms to ever hit the U.S. east coast.

Hurricane Florence achieved Category 4 storm status -- meaning that it now has sustained winds of 130 to 156 MPH, as of midday Monday Monday, September 10. It could be the most powerful storm to hit the U.S. east coast in more than 100 years, forecasters say. Florence is expected to achieve landfall in the North Carolina, South Carolina or Virginia region sometime on Thursday, September 13.

Among those making proactive moves ahead of the Florence's anticipated arrival:

Servcom: Proactive Business Risk Assessments

Servcom identifies key infrastructure as part a standard business risk assessment process. That includes documenting a client’s infrastructure, and applying risk assessment ratings. During major storms, Servcom focuses on safeguarding those areas where the business faces increased risk due to equipment failure or damage, according to CFO and COO William Keith Rogers.

Servcom’s William Rogers
Servcom's William Rogers

"In a major storm, data loss due to electrical damage or flooding is a primary concern," Rogers adds. "We actively test all of our clients' primary backups and BDR systems throughout the year to make sure our clients can handle even the most disruptive events. During the final days before a hurricane or other major storm, we also spend extra time testing and double-checking our clients’ offsite BDRs to make sure images are ready to recover, should the worst happen."

Moreover, Servcom safeguards clients’ infrastructure by putting their key assets into full shutdown mode during a storm. That includes traveling onsite to supervise the shutdown of data center equipment, and isolating as much equipment as possible from electrical surges or damage due to flooding. Once the storm passes, Servcom technicians will be re-connecting and testing equipment for the company's clientele.

Employee Safety: Of course, Servcom must also take steps to protect its own company assets and staff members.

"Our employees will be sheltering in-place during the storm, since we are not expected to be under evacuation orders," Rogers says. "We will continue to work regular hours through the storm, as long as we have power and Internet access."

The company's preparation checklist for employees includes such recommendations as:

  • Storing 72 hours worth of non-perishable food, medicine, and water.
  • Fueling up gas tanks and spare gas canisters, making sure they have plenty of batteries for radios, as well as portable chargers and spare batteries for smart phones.

"We will be staying in contact with our staff using Microsoft Teams throughout the storm," Rogers says. "Relying on mobile data and Microsoft’s cloud services will enable us to stay in contact, even in the face of major power and Internet disruptions."

CSP Inc.: Year-Round Business Continuity Planning, Testing

Meanwhile, CSP Inc.of Raleigh, North Carolina, also offers year-round business continuity and risk mitigation services, according to VP of Sales and Marketing Stephen Riddick.

Stephen Riddick, VP, sales and marketing, CSP Inc.

"We work with all of our clients year-round to make sure they are properly managing risk," Riddick says. The specific plans will vary widely from customer to customer. However, the baseline requirements typically include:

  • Robust disaster recovery and back-up solutions (CSI recommends Datto)
  • Cloud services (featuring Office 365 as the no-brainer recommendation).

From there, CSP Inc. scales up to more complex IaaS, DRaaS, hosted voice, and other services depending on the client needs. "But again, the most important part is planning ahead," Riddick asserts.

Potential customers that call in now for eleventh-hour data protection plans may discover that there simply isn't enough time to properly safeguard their data and business systems ahead of Florence's arrival, he notes.

"Living in North Carolina makes hurricanes a reality, Riddick says. "Thus, for better or worse, we’ve been through a lot of storms and no what to expect. It’s been great to see technical advancements over the past decade minimize the business impact that hurricanes can have on our clients. We work with one large real estate firm at the coast that had been hit especially hard. A few years ago, they invested in an extremely robust, cloud environment.  It’s refreshing to head into this hurricane season knowing that their data is safe."

The Network Essentials: Maniacal About Backups

The Network Essentials also is bracing for Hurricane Florence's arrival. The Charlotte, North Carolina-based firm mainly supports compliance-driven clientele in such verticals as financial services, accounting, legal and healthcare. The firm also has clientele in education, manufacturing and sales organizations. All of The Network Essentials' clientele have headquarters in Charlotte, and most also have branch offices across the U.S., and a few have offices in China.

The Network Essentials’ Kyle Elworthy

To support all of those customer networks and data points worldwide, The Network Essentials is "maniacal about our clients backups, to the extent that we will not bring on a client unless they allow us to meet our backup standards which includes both onsite and offsite automated backups," CEO Kyle Elworthy asserts. "We verify backups three times on weekdays, and two times on weekends.  We also have our core infrastructure in a secure datacenter so we are able to work remotely from anywhere including phones, so internally we are not worrying about fixing our situation instead of being able to put all our efforts on our clients in the case of an emergency."

The Network Essentials business continuity plan has three priorities:

  • First, ensure employees and their families are safe. To do so, the company leverages a text-based system in case other forms of communication suffer outages. 
  • Second, ensure the company's clientele and their people are safe.
  • Third, restore services as needed based on priority.

In Elworthy's personal case, he has a 30-day supply of food and water for himself, two children, and two family pets (a dog and cat). "It is clear that you should not rely on the government to take care of you in disaster situations," he says. He recommends seven days of supplies as a suitable level for most situations, and points readers to this website for more Hurricane Preparation and Survival guidance.

Hurricane Florence: Continued Updates

So what's next? Keep checking ChannelE2E's complete Hurricane Florence news coverage to track the storm's coverage, potential landfall, and related business recovery efforts once the storm passes.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.