The Impact of Natural Disaster on Data Infrastructure

Posted on July 20, 2017

Flood

What are the potential impacts of a natural disaster on data infrastructure?

The digital transformation we have seen over the last five years has increased the emphasis on an ‘always on’ and ‘always available’ IT environment. Natural disasters can have a significant impact on the availability of data centres, and by extension the data infrastructure, due to their impact either directly, or indirectly.

The direct impact of natural disasters, such as cyclones, earthquakes and floods can lead to downtime of the facility itself by either making it unsafe to operate or by impacting its critical power, cooling or IT infrastructure. In terms of indirect impact, natural disasters may affect the safety of employees, reduce or stop domestic and/or international telecoms connectivity, and affect the power grids supplying power. Both these scenarios make the data centre unavailable for use and can have a direct impact on business.

Flood, Fire or Power. The results can be catastrophic

The impact of natural disasters can also affect the viability of many organisations. Research on businesses that had been affected by the Queensland floods in 2011 indicated that over 50% of organisations had experienced either a moderate, significant or critical impact on their business viability. Many organisations in Queensland found that their server rooms were affected by inundation and consequently they were unable to carry on normal operations, even from external locations.

A key aspect of effective crisis management is to ensure that staff can continue working (often from home or other locations), however if staff are unable to access the data or applications that they need to perform their roles then this will not occur and productivity will be significantly impacted.

About 10% of data or application disruptions are directly caused by natural disasters such as fires or floods, but a further 40% are caused by power loss. Hence, in Australia, we can estimate that up to about $5 billion of costs are incurred each year as a direct result of natural disasters.

Based on industry data, we estimate that IT outages can cost organisations US$5,000-$10,000 per minute in terms of loss of revenues and/or productivity. The losses can reach millions of dollars in highly sensitive industry segments such as high frequency trading, or online retailing/eCommerce. While this is the financial cost, there could be non-financial costs to the business as well in terms of lost reputation amongst customers, loss of employee productivity and morale

At Vocus, we help many organisations with their data strategies. Whether it's redundant colocation across multiple data centres, Cloud based services, hosted unified communications, right down to diverse fibre networks, we know what it takes to make sure that enterprise data risk can be minimised. 

Related products & articles