Wildfires are unique — and so are the ways IT must cope with them Posted on September 4, 2018 by Tim Burke When it comes to the costs of natural disasters last year – what reinsurer Aon Benfield calls “perils” – wildfires ranked a distant third. This is small consolation if your business faces wildfire threat. And for a couple of reasons the odds of that appear to be increasing: Wildfires are getting bigger, burning more acreage Since 1970, the frequency of western U.S. wildfires has climbed 400%. California’s fire season is now year-round; since 2012, not a month has gone by without a wildfire burning somewhere in California. What’s more, last year’s dramatic spike in wildfire “perils,” at least, appears to be continuing: 2018’s North American fire season is already 25% worse than during the same period in 2017. Wildfire threat is unique – and not in a good way You need to plan differently for wildfire threat because wildfires can… Occur with little or no warning and overwhelm a given location extremely quickly; Continue for weeks or even months; Generate impacts – notably smoke and post-fire floods and mudslides – that can happen unpredictably in areas not immediately affected by the flames; and Be started (unlike other natural disasters) by people virtually anywhere at any time, making wildfire risks uncontrollable. When evacuation is your only option Beyond the usual physical precautions (clearing brush and trimming trees near structures), there’s little you can do to protect a business location from a fast-moving wildfire. Evacuation is your only option. Which means your business needs somewhere to go. Of course, plenty gets left behind during an evacuation. But with solid planning, you can ensure employee safety and preserve your IT infrastructure – your data, your applications, your business processes, and your workflows. Making your business wildfire-ready For many organizations, achieving this sort of IT resilience can be enough to keep the business viable – even through a wildfire. To be prepared, you’ll need: A well-crafted and frequently tested business continuity/disaster recovery plan that includes an emergency multi-channel communications system so you can contact all employees regardless of their device or location. Use of a 24/7 business resumption center that provides high-availability, scalable data center, co-location, and network operations capabilities; secure access to your data and application backups; customizable workspace for your employees; and professional staff to help you successfully fail over and fail back. Combined with well-planned cloud-based disaster recovery services (such as DR as a Service), a carefully-located business resumption center that’s part of a global data center network ensures that your IT infrastructure and the data and applications it harbors can be moved somewhere safe whenever necessary. Consult an experienced business continuity/disaster recovery services provider to plan and execute an IT resilience plan that can keep your business operational – even in the face of wildfire.