Aug 26 2021

How to Protect Critical Federal IT Assets at the Peak of Storm Season

An integrated approach to power management can help agencies safeguard against costly downtime due to weather-related outage.

While the 2021 hurricane season has already seen a flurry of activity, the worst might still be to come. Expectations for an above average storm season have increased to 65 percent according to the latest forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with peak season typically taking shape between mid-August and late October.

It’s important for federal agencies to consider how major weather events like hurricanes can impact IT assets and their ability to effectively operate.

There are several factors federal IT leaders should weigh when deploying power management equipment to help keep critical IT infrastructure running in the event of potential weather emergencies.

EXPLORE: What are key best practices for business continuity and disaster recovery?

Agencies’ Digital Infrastructure Relies on Reliable Power

With the acceleration of digital transformation efforts during the pandemic, federal agencies are modernizing their IT infrastructure to support more remote operations and digital service delivery.

This evolution is being accomplished through the transition to decentralized IT architectures, where multiple “edge” facilities are strategically distributed to help drive fast, dependable data and services. Maintaining uptime is critical across all these facilities to support operations and avoid potential complications that might result in an outage.

Take the FBI, for example. With a number of state-of-the art labs located across the country, the agency conducts nuclear and mitochondrial DNA testing on evidence samples to help solve criminal, missing persons and intelligence cases. If a DNA sequencing machine cuts off abruptly due to a power failure during a storm, both the sample and the potential DNA profile could be destroyed. That lost or damaged piece of evidence could result in a case going unsolved.

An integrated approach to power management can help agencies protect critical assets and data by safeguarding against costly downtime due to a weather-related outage.

Key Components of a Reliable Backup Power Strategy

There are several major elements of a reliable backup power strategy that agency IT leaders should consider. They include:

  • Uninterruptible power supplies: A UPS provides emergency power in the event of an outage, keeping crucial IT functions working until generators are up and running. Recent advancements in UPS technology include lithium-ion batteries, which deliver longer service life than traditional battery technology in a smaller footprint. Past concerns about safety have been alleviated by newer, secure lithium battery chemistries that are very cost-effective. These solutions can be integrated with network cards that enable enhanced connectivity and security to software and services. The combination can help deliver more stability and reliability.
  • Disaster preparedness software: Disaster preparedness software is especially important amid digital transformation, allowing staffs to oversee and maintain IT infrastructure without having someone onsite at each facility. Software applications integrate with power management devices for the remote management of critical infrastructure, enabling IT to mitigate power events before they cause damaging outages. Enhanced visualization and contextualization options can also be used to better ensure system uptime and data integrity of IT equipment from anywhere, at any time.
  • Remote monitoring and predictive analytics: Advanced preventive monitoring services for power management devices go together with power management software to help anticipate failure of critical components before they occur. Predictive analytics tools analyze data, alerting managers about when to schedule maintenance, repairs or updates before system components fail. This also helps avoid emergency service calls.

Cybersecurity might not be top of mind when it comes to weather-related emergencies, but it’s an important component to consider for an overall disaster preparedness strategy. This is particularly true given the sensitive data many agencies work with and the potential ramifications of a major breach.

To protect backup power systems, network management cards with UL 2900-1 and IEC 62443-4-2 certifications are available to help secure UPSs against potential hacks. When used in conjunction with power management software, IT teams can make timely firmware updates to stay ahead of evolving cybersecurity threats.

Physical security is another element to keep in mind in order to create an end-to-end disaster preparedness strategy. Simple measures such as deploying smart security locks on IT racks can help protect IT equipment, ensuring that UPSs and other power management devices are safe and that only authorized personnel can gain entry.

RELATED: What do IT leaders need to know about Disaster Recovery as a Service?

How Agencies Can Weather the Storm

While government agencies are gearing up for the height of storm season, it’s important to keep a line of sight on the road ahead.

Climate change indicators suggest that extreme weather events — ranging from severe storms to terrible heat waves — will likely become more frequent or more intense.

Backup power solutions are an important factor to consider in the disaster preparedness equation with these evolving dynamics. Putting the building blocks together now can help government agencies rest easier knowing they’re prepared for the future.

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