Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Making your digital infrastructure robust against catastrophes

Can someone who works solo on literary, music or film content realistically protect his content from  destruction in disaster?  The question obviously recurs, now given last weeks super-tornadoes in Oklahoma.
  
The most obvious protection is to back up your stuff in the Cloud, whether with Carbonite, Applie’s ICloud, or Mozy. Check that you can retrieve it, keep your credit cards updates, and passwords secure (we haven’t heard much about clouds being hacked, but out there could exist hackers or enemies mean enough to do so).  I’ve had trouble accessing Carbonite from a different and new machine (so I usually reload from thumbdrives).  Now cloud backups are periodic; generally, any one item can be backed up only once every 24 hours.

Of course, Cloud backup reliability might be tested with a really big national disaster, like a powergrid, EMP, or cyberattack.  
  
So the next question is, how to secure your stuff physically, besides relying on the Cloud? One consideration is that after a disaster your home could be condemned and authorities might not let you fetch your data and gear, which might have survived and be usable. 

One obvious solution is to keep some data in separate locations, most preferably in a safe-deposit box in a bank.  But even small bank buildings could be destroyed by supertornadoes or coastal hurricanes.  
You might want a safe deposit location to be some distance from your home, and particularly not immediately northeast of your home (a tornado’s path). 

If you have a basement, you might want to keep some of your flash or CD backups downstairs, and at least one or two laptops (with hard drives reasonably current) downstairs.  If you live in Texas or Oklahoma, you might want to consider investing in a storm cellar and keeping some stuff there.  The same goes for keeping paper copies of valuable records. 

A tornado can pop suddenly, and it’s possible that there might be only a few minutes warning.

If you live in a hurricane or flood prone area, or a wildfire exposed area, you might want to consider having arrangements in advance of a hotel to go to, with portable gear, out of range.  Sometimes wildfires give little warning.,  Mudslides (as in California) seem to give no warning (although an unusuall winter rain can be a prelude).  Sinkholes (most of all in Florida) give no warning, and seem to defeat the storm cellar backup idea.

And massive earthquakes, which come without warning, most likely in western states, can defeat the storm shelter strategy.  Midwestern earthquakes, based on the New Madrid fault, could be as devastating, particularly to homes not build with earthquake codes, but occur in severity much less frequently (probably only every several hundred years). 

An unusual calamity could be a tsunami, with hours of warning, perhaps from across an ocean.  An underwater landslide from the Cumbre Vieja volcano in the Canary Islands might be capable of generating a tsunami a hundred feet or more high along the US East Coast, reaching across the entire coastal plain.
Business owners should consider making optical (CD or DVD) as well as flash and cloud backups.  Some authorities say that an electromagnetic pulse, even a localized one from a flux device, can disable and destroy magnetic data devices as well as the power grid, but there is disagreement on that.  Solar storms are very unlikely to damage home electronics. 
  

I think a lot of attention could be placed on steel construction, which can make homes resistant to tornaodes even up to EF4. 

An interesting moral or ethical question would be, how prepared should homeowners be to house others, even from distant communities.  (After Hurricane Katrina, many were housed in Texas, and some came as far north as the DC area.)  

So, taking care of yourself – and your data – can be a real tall order. 

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