A few weeks ago, Honolulu was treated to an electrical storm of luminary extravagance.
During the "light show," residents of Windward and East Oahu will recall that HECO’s grid took a hit and went down for a few hours. Storms such as this are cool to watch but can really damage an unprotected computer system. Any line, whether it’s cable or DSL, can absorb and transmit a lightning strike through its copper conductivity medium. DSL is actually part of the copper phone lines and therefore makes computers vulnerable.
Typically after a storm or power outage, we hear from people who have had computers that have experienced corruption from systems shutting down prematurely or, worse, have fried motherboards or other severe damage. The good news is that usually data is retrievable (if you’re running a backup). None of us are immune — I even lost Internet radio last year to a power outage.
How to protect yourself?
At the minimum, protect your system with a decent (brand-name) surge protector. The best thing to do is buy an uninterruptible power supply (aka UPS), which offers protection from outages, power spikes and power dips. (More often than not in Hawaii, computers and associated equipment are damaged by power dips during lightning storms rather than direct electrical strikes). Vendors such as APC, PowerWare and Tripp Lite offer a variety of models and prices.
Another option, says Simon Fiddian, chief technology officer of Honolulu-based Wavecom Solutions, is "to let a cloud services company manage your hardware and software." That means an office no longer needs to maintain its hardware components such as servers, storage and, if done correctly, backup drives. "All you essentially require is a workstation and a connection to the Internet," Fiddian says. "All of your computing power and applications are off-site, safely tucked away in a secure, electrically independent data center."
With a cloud system, "you no longer have your applications and the data they store on your premise; rather, they are now off-site and out of harm’s way," Fiddian says. "If a tsunami hits, your office burns down or lightning strikes, given the correct planning you can still access your files immediately."
Thankfully, electrical storms and tsunamis are not everyday experiences. Whether you obtain a UPS or decide to outsource your office computer system, it’s always better to be prepared.
Mike Meyer, former Internet general manager at Oceanic Time Warner Cable, now runs Islanda Managed Cloud Services, based in Honolulu. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.