Data Storage, Safety Are Top Of Mind As Solution Providers Brace For Hurricane Matthew

As the East Coast braces for the impact of Hurricane Matthew, solution providers say they are concerned about cloud data storage and disaster recovery.

Hurricane Matthew will hit landfall in the U.S. this evening and around 1.5 million people are under orders from Florida Governor Rick Scott to evacuate. "This is deadly," Gov. Scott said in a media alert issued today. "If you chose to stay and try to ride the storm out, your life is at risk.’

The hurricane hit Haiti two days ago and more than 140 deaths have been attributed to the storm so far. Around 350,000 Haitian citizens will require public assistance of some kind, the Haitian government reported today.

For U.S. businesses in the storm's path, their offices, stores and physical locations might be wrecked but their core intellectual property – customer and financial records, sales data, etc. – can be saved with the right preparation.

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"It's the ultimate insurance policy," said Sam Heard, president of Data Integrity Services, Inc. in Lakeland, Fla., between Tampa and Orlando. "It is an additional expense, but for every hour you're down, what's that going to cost you? And what does it cost if you're down for several days or a week?"

Heard's company uses cloud-based backup services from Norwalk, Conn.-based Datto. He recalls years ago when Central Florida was hit with a succession of tornadoes. The key issue during that recovery was the inability to get back to business without utilities.

"The biggest issue that we had, other than the destruction, was the lack of power and internet service," Heard said. "We'd go to offices and visit with clients – their doors were open, generators were on and fans were blowing – but there was no [main] power and no internet."

Meanwhile, in Datto's Norwalk headquarters, a team of 12 people on a "Code Red" team will be handling calls and trouble tickets from technology partners as the storm hits. "It's hard to anticipate what exactly will happen so we prepare for the worst and hope for the best," said Zac Shannon, manager of support operations at Datto.

Shannon estimates that nearly 500 businesses – end user customers of Datto – are in Hurricane Matthew's direct path. Around 124 technology channel partners are going to be called to action to help those businesses should any experience damage to the on-premises devices involved.

In the last few days, Shannon said, technology partners have been testing off-site access and making sure they can spin up virtual machines to access their customers' data from remote locations. "Some businesses are even taking the devices with them and running them elsewhere," he said.

Either way, he wants to ensure the Code Red team has enough publicly available IP addresses so Datto can help its partners remotely configure networks to get companies returning to business as usual as soon as possible.

"Tonight will be the test of DR [disaster recovery] for many of our clients," wrote David Mendenhall, CTO of Giganetworks, based in Miami, in an email to CRN.

A number of cloud storage providers are offering help to Florida businesses impacted by Hurricane Matthew.

Axcient, a Mountain View, Calif.-based providers of disaster recovery-as-a-service, said on Thursday that it is offering free, no-commitment disaster recovery services to businesses potentially affected by Hurricane Matthew. A company spokesperson said that setting up the service takes less than 15 minutes, and that Axcient has staff on high alert to get such businesses up and running when needed.

Similarly, StorageCraft Technology, a Draper, Utah-based provider of disaster recovery and data protection solutions, said Thursday that businesses and non-profits in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina can back up their data for free with the StorageCraft ShadowProtect SPX software. A company spokesperson said organizations who back up data by Oct. 14 will be provided the ability to recover the data free of charge.

Additional reporting by Joseph F. Kovar