As if on cue, the massive Hurricane Earl is followed closely in the Atlantic Ocean by tropical storms Fiona and Gaston, which could mean major problems for IT operations in their paths.
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A NOAA spokeswoman said that hurricane activity this year could rival 2005, which is the most active year on record. She specifically cited the presence of the La Nina phenomenon , which the NOAA describes as as cooler than normal sea-surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. La Nina causes lower wind shear in the Atlantic Basin, allowing storm clouds to grow and organize there.
"Our hurricane forecaster has said we're in an active hurricane era, and this year's forecast was unusually high," the spokeswoman said.
The NOAA is predicting that the Atlantic basin will see 14 to 20 named storms (with top winds of 39 mph or higher). Those will likely include eight to 12 Hurricanes (with top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which four to six would be ranked as Category 3, 4 or 5 storms (with winds of at least 111 mph).
With the peak hurricane season between late August and October, IT managers should now be in the midst of crossing off check lists to ensure that their company's business continuity and disaster recovery plans are in place, experts say.
The need to keep data centers and the applications they support up and running constantly has become more and more important over the past five years because of an increasing reliance on automation, said Damian Walch, director in Deloitte & Touche's Technology Risk practice. As time goes on, the ability to run businesses manually is diminishing, he added.
Meanwhile, the current economic downturn has caused many businesses to cut back on disaster recovery and business continuity support, putting IT systems at even more risk when a major storm hits, Walch said.
"What I'm seeing out there are a lot of companies that have put their business continuity or disaster recovery programs on hold or scaled back over the last 12 months," he said, which is leading IT operations to "fall back on bad habits."
As budgets are cut, he noted, companies are decreasing investments in alternate data recovery sites, cutting back staff responsible for disaster recovery and business continuity, maintaining insufficient capacity on servers and storage and neglecting to update plans and procedures, he said
"Not only do you have more dependence on (automated) systems, but you now also fewer people to run them, so you don't have the geographic diversity you once had, and therefore your risks have increased," Walch added.