by Matthew Reed, CEO, Zebis
Living on Sanibel Island for more than 30 years and providing IT services to the islands for more than 20 of those years has resulted in an absolute devotion to this place we call home.
Since Hurricane Ian, we at Zebis have been working diligently to help restore IT services to the businesses and homes of Sanibel and Captiva. We had boots on the ground within a week of the storm and established systems to bring stable connectivity to the area.
The various service providers have been doing an impressive job restoring infrastructure for resources such as power and landline Internet. As part of standard disaster recovery (DR) protocol we have been closely monitoring the stability of restored resources. It is our goal to provide information helpful for both expectation management and avoiding damaging scenarios when connecting the IT systems of your businesses and homes to restore resources.
What You Need To Know / Expectation Management
Providers such as LCEC and Comcast have been doing a beyond impressive job at rebuilding the infrastructure of the islands. Zebis has implemented deep monitoring probes to examine the stability of both restored power and Internet systems. The results indicate the following:
• Expect landline Internet systems to vary in both speed and availability. This means Internet connections may become slow or even go down entirely for brief or extended time periods.
• If Internet or phone connectivity is high priority, consider services which do not rely on landlines such as those described later in this article.
• Expect variable power quality even after power has been restored. This means power inconsistencies can occur including those the which relate to power quality, surges, and drops (resulting in brown-outs) which can cause damage to equipment and even corrupt previously saved content such as personal files.
• IT systems and saved content can be protected by implementing certain safeguards described in this article.
IT Protocols in a Disaster Recovery Area
These tips are meant to help businesses and homes reconnect efficiently while avoiding issues which could cause extensive hardware damage and loss of data such as personal files.
• If your IT systems are critical, do NOT simply continue “business as usual.” Note you are in a disaster recovery (DR) area and resources are in, and a will continue to be for some time, a state of repair.
• Inconsistencies of power quality can cause serious damage to equipment. Surge suppressors, battery backups, etc. that are considered acceptable in areas not enduring disaster recovery, may not be adequate to protect IT equipment on the islands right now. Though there are various items to consider, a good starting point to put you ahead is make sure all equipment is protected by an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) which features an inverter which provides a true “sine wave.” This is different than may UPS units which provide a “step wave.” In short, sine wave inverters offer additional protection which, for scenarios such as what we’re all facing, is critical. Further, all equipment connected to each other must be protected. If, for example, only your high-value equipment is protected while a basic peripheral device is left unprotected, and if that unprotected device is connected by wire to any other equipment, the rest of the equipment is now at risk.
• Power inconsistencies and Internet inconsistencies can also pose serious risks to your personal information (data) such as files saved on your computers. For DR areas, it is suggested to utilize data backup systems with multiple cascading levels of assurance. In short, this means a backup systems that securely saves your files to multiple locations. This can include backing up “locally” (eg: to an external hard drive or SSD) while simultaneously backing up to a cloud resource. If using a cloud resource, note that inconsistencies with Internet service can result in files being only partially backed up, duplicated files, new versions of files being overwritten by older versions, and various other undesired results. Some backup services are better than others at dealing with these issues. Zebis has designed an advanced backup service specifically engineered to address these types of issues.
• Internet and phone service provided by landline infrastructure (such as “cable Internet”) can be inconsistent even after restored. The impact of this is reduced by using a “cascading” WiFi system which utilizes both landline and wireless Internet service. A cascading WiFi system seamlessly keeps phone and Internet service stable by maintaining a connection to multiple Internet and phone service providers. When one service provider becomes unstable, your devices remain connected through the other connected provider.
There are two main alternatives to landline based Internet service.
The first, and quickest to implement is terrestrial fixed wireless services (T-FWS). T-FWS is similar to mobile wireless service that services phones, tablets, etc. with the difference being T-FWS is designed specifically to service a predefined specific address. This results in an increased level of service quality and performance compared to mobile wireless service. T-FWS service can be established quickly on it’s own or can be added to a location serviced by landline Internet service such as “cable Internet” to improve reliability by offering a second connection. T-FWS can generally be established in as little as three days.
The second is low orbiting satellite fixed wireless service (S-FWS). Similar to terrestrial service, S-FWS is provisioned for a specific predefined address, however, instead of ground based towers providing the service, the service is provided by low orbiting satellites. The low orbit of these satellites improves performance making the service suitable for video meetings, phone service, and other real-time tasks for which high orbiting satellite service may not be suited. S-FWS is ideal for addresses not yet covered by T-FWS.
Zebis has been deploying T-FWS and S-FWS stations to the islands since about one week after Ian and is positioned to quickly help local businesses and residences restore their connectivity.
Living and working in a DR area is unique. From an IT perspective, restoring customary stability means doing things a little differently by updating IT methods to meet the changes of our environment.
A single Internet connection, for example, may no longer be ample for those relying on their connectivity, power protection systems will have be more robust than before the storm, data backup systems will have to be more reliable, and other characteristics of our IT lives will have to be updated to bring us the stability we need and expect.
Zebis is here to help. We have designed systems and approaches specifically to work in our current environment and have staff in the area on readiness to help. Give us a call at 239-473-9324. We will also continue to offer tips right here via the Santiva Chronicle.