How to Prepare your Network for an Emergency

By Ryan Ayers
Updated: September 23, 2011

How to Prepare your Network for an Emergency

When we think of disasters, whether natural or man made, we often think of the cost in terms of property, human lives, and community infrastructure. The reality is that a catastrophic emergency can cripple your business’ network as well and can cost untold sums in lost and irretrievable information and data if not properly protected. Emergency responders have protocols in place when dealing with roads, medical situations, and other more human-related issues that follow disasters of any type – and so should your business’ communications and data network.

Common Catastrophic Network Emergencies:

  • Viruses
  • Power Failures/Outages
  • Natural Disasters
  • Hacker Attacks
  • Construction/Underground Cable Disruptions

Preparing Your Network

In preparing your network to effectively survive an emergency intact, you should be aware of the basic concepts involved in your efforts. Your network should be able to keep a backup of some kind of all pertinent data. This means that every interaction that is normally considered critical to your enterprise should be recorded in some fashion. Typically, organizations opt for an offsite, or remote, repository for this backup so that if there is a natural or catastrophic event localized to their offices (or wherever the servers are located) their backups are safely away from the danger zone.

Backup procedures, called redundancy, vary depending on cost and logistic factors, but are generally performed in one of several ways:

System Backups – This is simply a scheduled and regular backup (or copy) of critical system data. This method is only effective if backups are scheduled at fairly frequent intervals.
Replication – Many businesses opt to replicate their servers and keep them in separate geographic locations so that they are removed from one another in the event of an emergency and one should remain safe.
Mirroring – A more sophisticated version of backing up, mirroring essentially copies and mirrors disk activity in nearly real-time. There are distance limitations that are a factor with this method, and addressing the question of longer distances can be more expensive.
Failover Capabilities – Many businesses rely on failover capabilities in their systems which anticipate power supply and other potential problems and are designed to (at least temporarily) work around these. While most businesses that employ failover capabilities do so in addition to some form of backup or replication, some use only these systems.

The Cost of Preparedness

Redundancy and other emergency network preparedness techniques are an expensive proposition for larger companies. The potential loss of data and equipment without these systems in place, however, can be catastrophic and can have exponentially higher expenses long term. Depending on the size of your organization, the amount of data that you process in a given time period, and the critical and time sensitive nature of your data, your needs for disaster preparedness and redundancy will vary.

Many small businesses (and some much larger businesses) rely on their network provider for their redundancy and emergency systems. Most networking providers, and many communications and data providers, will provide at least some form of emergency protocols for their customers.


The basic ideas behind emergency preparedness for your network and communications systems are important because they reflect the importance of the data that your business needs in order to continue functioning effectively. Losing data because of a natural disaster, virus, or catastrophic emergency can cause havoc within your organization, cost your business immeasurably, and take years to recover from. Thankfully, there are well thought out and accessible emergency measures that are within reach and cost effective for most businesses.
 

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