When Disaster Strikes, Will Your Data be Safe?

By Bruce Harmon, Ph.D., Doctoral Chair of Computer Science

With the recent wildfires in Colorado and across the country still fresh in our minds and in light of the latest destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy in the northeastern portion of the United States, we are ever more aware of the power and unpredictability of natural disasters. As our nation begins to heal and process this recent tragedy, our faculty leaders will offer their insights on disaster preparedness.

CTU Computer Science Degree - Data DisasterNatural disasters, like Hurricane Sandy, are grim reminders that we are all vulnerable to unexpected catastrophes brought on by nature or by mankind. Weeks, months, and potentially years later, we experience devastating after-effects that disrupt our lives and our businesses. Yet, much can be done to mitigate the effects of disasters on your business, and it starts with a proactive disaster recovery (DR)  strategy. To get started, here are three important steps you can take now.

1. Safeguard your data

The backbone of any business is its data – from customer data to intellectual property data. If you lose it, the loss can cripple your business operations. Critical data should be backed up nightly, though I suggest more frequent backups whenever possible.

2. Secure data offsite

If you’ve taken the step to create a backup system, you’re on the right track. Now, consider what would happen if disaster strikes. Are you able to access your backup files? If you stored them onsite, then it’s unlikely. That’s why, during my tenure at Hewlett-Packard (HP), we took measures to set up a complete duplicate of the Financial Services operation in Colorado Springs, far away from California’s earthquake zone (but apparently not so far from forest fires!). This enabled the company to maintain the state of the business on redundant machines, located safely away from headquarters. In the event of complete destruction of the California facility, the company could continue to operate.

3. Think beyond Mother Nature

Although our attention has been focused on natural disasters, another aspect of DR is systems security.  The volume of cyber attacks committed with viruses, worms, Trojans, phishing, and the like, are only increasing, which increases your chances of being attacked. How would a breach in your customer’s sensitive data affect your business? It’s your responsibility to implement every reasonable measure to prevent that, but you must also plan for the possibility of a security breach. Here, think about how you might block further damage and how you will assess what has been compromised. You’ll also want to consider your crisis communication plan, which involves how you’ll communicate with customers and the media.

The uncertainty of disasters – man made or natural – may leave you feeling helpless. But there are steps you can take, starting today. Plan for the worst, and then focus your DR efforts on protecting your customers, your brand, and your business. 

CTU Faculty - Bruce HarmonBruce Harmon, Ph.D., is the University Doctoral Chair of Computer Science  at Colorado Technical University. He earned a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering with a minor in Computer Science from the University of Colorado and his M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from Purdue University. He earned a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering at the United States Air Force Academy. After 9 years in the Air Force, he worked in defense and later at top-tier commercial companies for 17 years both in research and executive leadership positions. Learn why he’s IN.

Image credit: Barracuda Networks

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