Sometimes it takes a swift kick in the butt to remind us of basic items we need to address in our lives. One recent swift kick in the butt was Hurricane Ike, which hit the U.S. Gulf Coast in September 2008. Major incidents like Hurricane Ike force us to re-evaluate how prepared we are for disasters.

As many CODE Magazine readers already know, the website was down for nearly two weeks in September as we dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. In case you don't already know, the headquarters for CODE Magazine is Houston, TX. Hurricane Ike hit the Texas coast, wiping out the city of Galveston, TX and causing severe damage to Houston. Part of the severe damage to Houston included power outages for approximately 2.5 million homes and businesses. By the grace of God, our friends and family at CODE (and EPS Software, publishers of CODE) remained unharmed with just some minor damage to some family member's homes. Like many businesses, our office had no juice (i.e., power (). Hurricane Ike provided us with a wakeup call to how vulnerable we are to outages.

During the last couple of weeks I received a number of instant messages, phone calls, and e-mail messages asking about the safety of our CODE family. All of them were as a result of the CODE Magazine site being offline. One e-mail that struck home with me was from my good friend Chris Love (Microsoft MVP):

What the heck!!!! I know how data centers run and there should be no reason why a data center in Houston would not be online even through the hurricane. Hosted solutions would never go down in that situation; it would take a major direct hit from a bomb to take them offline. Who are you guys hosted with?

And you know what? He is right. Why do we take the risk of having our business interrupted by power outages or other natural disasters? This struck home with me as I am guilty of the same issues as CODE Magazine. I also host my own e-mail and web servers in my house. Now this doesn't really impact my business all that much but it has the potential of affecting clients who host their websites on my machines. So what should we do? First, we need to recognize that Mother Nature can wreck any of our convenient plans. ??

Second, we need a Business Continuity Plan. Wikipedia defines a Business Continuity Plan ( as follows:

In plain language, BCP is working out how to stay in business in the event of disaster. Incidents include local incidents like building fires, regional incidents like earthquakes, or national incidents like pandemic illnesses.

No business is too large or small to think of these things. You need to address basic questions:

  • Should you really host your own boxes in house or put them elsewhere with better reliability?
  • What should you do if your hosting company has a problem?
  • How will you access your client's source CODE and data?
  • How will you continue to send and receive e-mail?
  • How will you figure out the health status of your employees?
  • Where will your employees live and work in the event of a major disaster?
  • Have you tested your plan? Yes, you need to test it!

I allowed Chris to read my editorial in advance as I included a personal e-mail from him. I'll close with a mashup of two comments he made during the IM session where he gave me feedback on this editorial:

To me, having my servers in a safe environment has made it much easier for me to not let that add to my normal worries. I can focus on the things that matter more, real life. In times of crisis, we really need to be with our families instead of worrying about cranky customers complaining they could not get their e-mail or threatening to sue us over lost business.