Berman said one thing he still can't understand is why companies insist on maintaining an IT presence in a single building -- something he calls the "huggability" factor. Even the largest banks, he said, like to have their technology in the same building as their business operations. That kind of proximity, however, means a single regional disaster can take out a company's entire infrastructure.
"If they were just smart enough to move their servers from one building to another, they'd avoid these regional issues," he said.
At far greater risk, however, are small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). The SMB market, which is made up of 33 million companies, represents the sector where most U.S. workers are employed, yet it's the sector that's least prepared to respond to disasters because it has far fewer resources.
Cloud backup providers, such as Carbonite, Box.net and Dropbox, are good alternatives to building out a company's backup infrastructure, Berman said.
Aging infrastructure also adds risk as more severe weather strikes various regions of the U.S. In New York City, for example, many water pipes date back to the Civil War era, according to Berman.
In addition, the nation's power infrastructure is mainly above ground, on poles that are vulnerable to strong winds and electrical storms.
"There is some infrastructure that needs to be changed. I think burying power and phone lines is a good first step," Olds said.
Utility companies should be spending time and money to bury lines after severe storms, in a piecemeal fashion, Olds said. That way, they'll have both the political and financial support for the projects. Unfortunately, after a power outage, most local governments are only concerned with getting power back on and not addressing future outages, he said.
The nation's communications networks are in even more critical need of changes, Olds said. For example, as a result of the mid-Atlantic coast derecho, 911 emergency service was out in areas of Virginia for as long as two days, Olds said.
Installing fiber-optic communication lines underground could ensure not only more resilient communications networks, but better coordination during and after severe weather events. And, the use of new mini-sensors on communications and power networks could lead to faster line repairs, he said.
"By installing network sensors, you can see where the damage is and deliver resources to the right areas, faster," Olds said. "It's getting cheap to put sensors and intelligence into anything."
Until the nation's infrastructure is made more robust, the increasing severity of weather conditions will continue to have regional, not just local, implications. All companies need to think about backup plans outside of their region.
"I advise my clients that you can't depend on any one thing. You can't depend on the cloud unless you have something to fall back on," Olds said. "I also hope this serves as a great learning experience for Amazon and other cloud service providers in general."
Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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