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Dispatches From Mexico City, Part One: Backing Up For Disasters

ChaAuthor: Ty Trumbull

ChannelE2E Senior Contributing Editor Ty Trumbull wrote this blog hours before yesterday’s (Sept. 19, 2017) devastating Mexico City earthquake — the second quake in recent weeks to hit region. He is safe following the second quake, and shared these perspectives on the aftermath.  Below are his views on the first quake.

I would be remiss to not mention Mexico’s Independence Day, held this past Friday. I was unfortunately run down with a rather bad cold and unable to partake in the festivities. Instead, I’m left continuing to ruminate on the earthquake a few weeks ago.

Of course, my meditation was aided by the big earthquake the drill they held this morning that I’d managed to forget about until I was halfway out the door, dog in tow, trying to pull on my shoe. Luckily, I remembered before I made it to the street.

But with the horrible damage that’s been caused by natural disasters from Mexico to Florida and Texas these last few weeks, I’m finding myself wondering about the importance of backup and recovery. Now, don’t get me wrong, I write about this topic a lot so I’m very familiar with it at this point. But there’s a big difference between the abstract and the reality of a situation.

Taking It For Granted

In the insular world of MSPs and IT, most people are aware of the importance of data protection, backup, and disaster recovery. But I think a lot of people outside that sphere take it for granted. I know I did before I starting contributing to ChannelE2E.

It seems trite to say, but the Internet is the hub of modern life. It’s how we stay connected to one another in the present and how we maintain connections to our past. It’s how we contact emergency services when we’re in need and how we buy earthquake preparedness kits when we’re planning ahead.

In many ways, the Internet reminds me of the band on the Titanic who, in the hopes of keeping passengers calm, continued to play even as the ship sank. A post-disaster scenario becomes automatically and exponentially worse without the internet. It keeps people calm and contented when they most need to be.

Reliant Technology

One 2014 study put Mexico in line to be the number one data center nation in Latin America by 2018. Given the recent earthquake, it’s clear that those hubs need to be able to withstand a lot of punishment.

After all, many people now rely on the Internet and apps to stay informed during a natural disaster. The most popular app in Mexico is called SkyAlert, which alerts users of threats from earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tropical storms, and other events. While many people use it, the tool hasn’t been without controversy. In 2014, SkyAlert issued an alert about a severe earthquake in Mexico City sending panicked people pouring into the streets. Once it was revealed the alert was a false alarm people became angry, despite the company issuing an apology. This just goes to show how much people rely on devices like this, which are reliant on the internet and data centers.

Remarkably, in the United States, there are no legal standards for ensuring the safety and stability of a data center, according to a New York Times article. So unless the center houses clients like the government or other organizations that require specific protections, there’s no guarantee the hub will hold in the event of a disaster. Many companies use the tier system developed by Uptime Institute to gauge their disaster preparedness levels. But given that there are no specific requirements, and our reliance on the internet in times of crisis, I’m starting to think it might be worthwhile to look at setting some universal safety standards ahead of the next disaster. In whatever country that may be in.

Ty Trumbull, from his base in Mexico City, covers the entrepreneur’s journey and business continuity for ChannelE2E. Each Tuesday or so, he offers views about his adopted hometown — his personal Dispatches from Mexico City.

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