This past hurricane season has brought some of the most harrowing, widespread destruction the southeastern United States has ever been forced to weather. But, despite the enormous, tragic cost of these natural disasters, the people of these communities persevere. In the wake of widespread wind damage and flooding, communities have banded together. Thousands of volunteers and neighbors are working as one to rebuild and find the way forward. There is no doubt, however, that the havoc wreaked by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma will produce aftershocks that will echo through affected areas for decades.
To anyone who turtled up in their attic in the middle of the storm or just saw a picture of the wreckage in the news after the hurricanes departed, the physical damage caused by the storm is obvious. What’s less obvious is the effect these storms have on the futures of the survivors, the reverberating impact that cuts thousands of life plans short and forces individuals to completely change their course in a cruel reversal of fate.
“Forty percent of small businesses don’t survive these events,” said Russel Honore, the previous Joint Task Force commander for Hurricane Katrina. The electrical grid is knocked out for days, and businesses are forced to close the office for what they hope is a temporary period due to flooding.
Each day that a business can’t provide service, it’s bleeding money — a cost that many businesses, especially the little guys, can’t absorb. So, they close for good, their buildings go up for lease and those who were once the heads of promising young businesses are now unemployed, in the market for a job in a city up to its neck in water.
Just as common is a business that finds its central data structures wiped out by physical damage. Following a hurricane, most businesses near the storm should have little trouble cleaning up and remodeling following nasty flooding, but if their servers, computers and network infrastructure have been wiped out, it’s a completely different story.
Oftentimes, a catastrophic loss of data will shutter a business for good. A 2010 report by technology research firm Gartner Group stated that 43 percent of businesses went belly-up almost immediately after a “major loss” of data, while 51% shut down within just two years. That leaves a measly 6% survival rate for businesses that suffer company-wide data loss.
These are scary numbers, to be sure, but there is good news: Businesses that migrate their data to the cloud are at significantly less risk of losing vital data. This is not only because your typical cloud service will back up your up-to-date data with several levels of redundancy, but because most cloud services are actually more secure than their on-site counterparts in general.
And make no mistake, businesses with on-site data are susceptible to loss far beyond physical disasters like hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes or solar flares. Don’t forget the risks disgruntled employees, freak accidents and, especially, hackers pose to your precious data. While it’s true that all of these risks still exist with cloud-based services, they’re much reduced. A 2012 Alert Logic report stated that “on-premises environment users actually suffer more [hacking] incidents” than cloud-based users, while also being subjected to “significantly more brute force attacks.” When you think about it, this makes sense. With your entire system backed up on a number of off-site locations, it’s much more difficult for hackers to encrypt the entirety of your data and hold it for ransom.
That said, not every business absolutely needs the cloud to stay secure. Certain business models need on-site structures for various reasons, and a few find it more cost-effective. Still, the cloud is definitely something that any savvy business owner needs to examine closely as a potential option. It could mean the difference between flourishing in the next fiscal quarter and going under.