Be Ready! Protect Against Network Outages During Hurricane Season

Keeping communication systems running at peak performance often includes a great partner with a deep bench of experts with experience in many complex situations. Particularly invaluable are battle-tested IT Teams who can help rebuild and stabilize the system when disaster strikes. At Avaya, we’re engaging in a proactive support dialogue to help our customers avoid complexity from the outset.

Disasters come in many forms and can cause a variety of problems. A recent analysis showed that disasters lead to five common communications network outages. To stop these outages before they start, our Senior Director of Emergency Recovery Joey Fister gave us some background and recommendations—read on to see what we learned.

NOAA’s 2016 Prediction

Just as July comes every year, so must the prognostications from the National Hurricane Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This year’s prediction? NOAA says that the Atlantic hurricane season “will most likely be near-normal, but forecast uncertainty in the climate signals that influence the formation of Atlantic storms make predicting this season particularly difficult.”

Hurricanes can be catastrophic to businesses. In 2012, Superstorm Sandy caused $65 billion in damage in the U.S., making it the second-costliest weather disaster in American history behind only Hurricane Katrina, according to the NOAA. During the storm, 8,204,220 Americans and thousands of businesses lost power.

Avoid Costly Communications Outages

No matter the weather and because the average cost of downtime is $2,700 per minute according to Aberdeen Group, it is best to avoid communications network outages by knowing what is most likely to cause them. According to the research report The Essential Guide to Avoiding Networking Outages power outages are the leading cause of communications network outages. This white paper features an analysis of the top five causes of outages with the percentage of those outages that could potentially have been prevented had leading practices been followed. The top five causes of network outages are:

  • Power outages – 74%
  • Lack of routine maintenance – 73%
  • Software bug – 69%
  • Hardware failure – 39%
  • Network issue – 35%

The analysis shows that network outages can be avoided by using industry-leading outage prevention practices. Leveraging resources now and on an ongoing basis to determine if facilities can meet power demands and ward off problems is essential. Particular attention can be given to hardware that is approaching the end of manufacturer support (EoMS). Also, make sure to:

  • Schedule maintenance of systems to avoid the 73% of remediable outages attributed to poor maintenance and underutilized upkeep.
  • Watch for telltale signs from equipment that a problem is approaching. Proactive health checks, disciplined system monitoring and observed maintenance schedules can aid in getting the signal and helping improve the reliability of communications assets.
  • Upgrade equipment approaching EoMS, avoiding the fallout from over-sweating of assets.
  • Verify system redundancy, system health checks, and failover strategies for critical systems.
  • Patch whenever possible to eliminate software bugs or software-related outages. Some choose to let others occupy the upgrade frontlines and endure potential rollout hiccups, then follow along at a safe interval. This strategy breaks down disastrously when an organization suffers an outage that would have been avoided with a fix that it voluntarily chose to postpone.
  • Draw a network diagram to isolate an outage and speed resolution by illustrating the relationships among pieces of equipment.

Checklist: Follow These Six Steps Before a Disaster Strikes

When disaster approaches, don’t depend on local team members who could be facing challenges of their own at home. Move team members to locations where they can work with clients. When assembling a team, pull from across the organization and leverage readouts on defined intervals to see how your business may be impacted. Here is a checklist of six steps to help prepare now before a crisis strikes:

  1. Save translations before the emergency event impacts the site. This will help ensure that recent changes are not lost and speed restoration if there’s damage to the system.
  2. Review safety procedures with all employees prior to an emergency event, if possible, and make certain to have an updated contact list.
  3. Secure back-up media so that translations won’t be lost or damaged, thereby delaying restoration of your service. Take a copy of back-ups and any other information off site.
  4. Print and store a current list configuration of key solutions. If a new system is necessary, this simple precaution will save time in starting the process.
  5. Consider powering your system down before the emergency event impacts the site. Electrical power surges both before and after an emergency event can pose the greatest threat to your system.
  6. Contemplate moving switch/applications if the site is located in an area that may be exposed to damage from the emergency.

Taking the above actions will limit risk and help ensure your systems make it through almost any storm or situation. How do you prepare for hurricane season? Have you made any changes to this year’s network outage avoidance strategy?