Even if your tech is wet, the data still may be salvageable
Faced with a waterlogged server and/or computers in your office, do you power them up to see if they’ve been damaged? Turn on the fan or blow dryer? Or figure it’s a bust and throw them out with the carpet and furniture?
Actually, it’s none of the above, say Capital Region technology and business solutions firms.
The trick, says Transformyx CEO Claude Bethea: Allowing them to dry out first. A smartphone or tablet can be dropped in a bag of rice, which will soak up moisture. Dehumidifiers can speed along the process for desktops. Then contact an IT provider to assess the data systems before you boot up.
“If you turn it on to see if it works, it may fry the system,” Bethea says. “A lot of times computers may not come back. But hard drives are in an enclosure, and sometimes you can retrieve data from a device that has some water damage. You can send it off to a data recovery center, and they can take the spindles out of the hard drive and put them in a new hard drive so they can start reading the disk. The electronics are probably fried, but sometimes you can get data from them.”
If your company does run backups—and an astute employee happened to grab the tape and take it with them—a data center can use those to provide access to those files.
“There are options if you didn’t have a plan,”says William Sellers, a pre-sales engineer and architect for EATEL/Venyu. “It’s obviously more costly and it takes more time to return to operations in this type of scenario, but it is doable.”
Even so, it’s what’s known in the industry as a worst-case scenario. The better option is always planning for catastrophe.
“If you don’t have a disaster recovery plan in place, obviously after a flood like this, it’s a great time to start thinking about it, because it’s fresh in your mind what the impact is,” Sellers says. “Let’s think about business continuity before the situation actually happens.”
A good business continuity plan, he notes, is focused on backup and recovery—and that includes servers, desktops, laptops and other endpoints. The backup data should be off site.
“That’s really the key,” Sellers says. “Getting the data from the premises where you’re at out to a private provider. In doing that, you’re protecting your data from a corruption or a catastrophic event where you have physical damage. But you still have to think about recovery. That data has to come back. It has to actually be restored to something, and that can also be a trick.” If a company’s server room, for example, is under water, it can take time for the business to reinvent its hardware and pull the data back.
That’s where virtual environments—or cloud computing—comes in. That allows companies to move their virtual environment from the site to a data center, allowing for seamless complete continuity and connectivity.
Bethea urges companies now contemplating a continuity plan to shop around. “Be patient, and don’t rush into anything,” he says. “Make sure you consult with several entities to make sure you’re getting the solution that is right for you. Try to find a provider that can handle you premise-based needs and your data center needs, and one that can back up at multiple locations.”
5 quick tips for business continuity and data preservation
Now that the water has receded in most areas, it’s easy to be focused on trying to get back to normal. But it’s important not to be complacent about planning for the next disaster—particularly when it comes to protecting valuable business data and reducing the risk of financial loss. Here are 10 tips from Capital Region tech experts.
No. 1: Back it up. Institute a regular data backup procedure. Power outages, flooding and other disasters will cause disruption, but you can minimize it with a plan in place.
No. 2: Join the cloud. Consider storing critical business data and backups in an off-site cloud or hosted workspace. This means the responsibility for security, updates, redundancy and business continuity rests with your provider.
No. 3: Create a virtual workspace. Consider making business programs, applications and data accessible from any location, allowing employees to work from home on their home computers, tablets or smartphones in the event of a disaster. Encourage employees to have a suitable Wi-Fi connection at home; also confirm that company insurance policies cover both the employees and company equipment when working from home.
No. 4: Keep it high and dry. If your office is susceptible to flooding, keep IT equipment and cables at a reasonable height off the ground and store critical equipment on higher levels, such as the second or third floor. Ask your team to switch off computers and electronic equipment at the end of the working day, leaving only the vital systems operating.
No. 5: There’s an app for that. Whenever possible, ensure that critical software can be virtualized in the cloud and is licenced for use in different locations or from different hardware and devices, should you have to change your location and/or devices used as you are recovering from disaster.
Assessments on damaged properties can be modified to lower taxes
Property taxes in Louisiana are generally based on the status and condition of taxable property on January 1 of each tax year. For Baton Rouge and surrounding areas devastated by the recent flooding that could mean paying property taxes on homes and business property based on the condition of property before the floods.
Fortunately, Louisiana law offers a solution. Historically, Louisiana law had special provisions for the reassessment of flooded property (La. R.S. 47:1978). In 2005, the Louisiana Legislature expanded this reassessment provision and provided clearer procedures related to the reassessment of damaged or destroyed property (La. R.S. 47:1978.1).
La. R.S. 47:1978.1 requires assessors to modify the assessments of properties that have been damaged or destroyed or that are non-operational or uninhabitable due to an emergency. Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared the recent flooding as an emergency. Under the law, assessors must recognize damage to land and other property, including buildings, structures, or personal property, such as equipment.
Since the assessment rolls have not yet been certified by the assessors, La. R.S. 47:1978.1 requires the assessors to modify their property tax assessments and delay the certification process, as necessary. The modified rolls will be subject to public inspection for a period of fifteen days once the rolls have been completed. Valuation appeals will have to be filed after shortly after the public inspection period.
It is important that taxpayers with damaged property contact the appropriate assessor’s office so that they can submit evidence of damage, such as pictures and insurance claims. This evidence will then be used by the assessor’s office to determine what adjustments need to be made to the assessment of the damaged property to properly account for the destruction, damage, or other impairment. The assessors in many of the impacted areas have not yet established procedures for requesting and implementing the valuation adjustments required by La. R.S. 47:1978.1. Kean Miller will be monitoring developments related to reassessments and is ready to help taxpayers get adjustments that properly account for all damage from the 2016 floods.
—Christopher Dicharry, Kean Miller law firm
After a flood, HVAC systems should be cleaned to ensure healthy indoor work environments
During flooding, systems for heating, ventilating, and air conditioning can become submerged in flood waters. As a result, these systems may contain substantial amounts of dirt and debris and may also become contaminated with various types of microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that commercial HVAC systems contaminated with flood water are properly cleaned and remediated to provide healthy indoor environments.
Microorganisms may grow on all surfaces of submerged HVAC system components, the CDC notes. In addition, moisture can collect in HVAC system components that were not submerged, such as air supply ducts above the water line, and can promote the growth of microorganisms. Therefore, all components of the HVAC system that were contaminated with flood water or moisture should be thoroughly inspected, cleaned of dirt and debris, and disinfected by a qualified professional.
If the building is to remain partly occupied—on upper floors not affected by flood waters, for instance—construction areas where HVAC systems will be cleaned and remediated should be isolated using temporary walls, plastic sheeting, or other vapor-retarding barriers. Construction areas should be maintained under negative pressure using blowers equipped with HEPA filters to exhaust the area.
To ensure complete isolation from the construction areas, it may be necessary to pressurize the adjacent nonconstruction areas and temporarily relocate the outdoor-air intake for the HVAC system serving the occupied areas.
After cleaning and disinfecting or replacing an HVAC system, have a qualified professional thoroughly evaluate its performance and correct it as necessary before the building is occupied again.
The latest recovery resources for businesses
Six Business Recovery Centers are now open in south Louisiana to assist those impacted by the flooding. No appointment is necessary. All services are provided free of charge.
SBA representatives will meet with each business owner to explain how an SBA Disaster Loan can help finance their recovery. LSBDC consultants at the center will provide counseling on a wide variety of matters designed to help small business owners re-establish their operations, overcome the effects of the disaster and plan for their future. Services include assessing business economic injury, evaluating the business’s strength, cash flow projections and most importantly, a review of all options to ensure each business makes decisions that are appropriate for its situation.
—Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Archives, 3851 Essen Lane (near Interstate 12), Mondays through Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
—Walker: Southeastern Louisiana University Literacy and Technology Center, Room 101, 9261 Florida Blvd., weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
—Lafayette: Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise (LITE) Executive Conference Room, 537 Cajundome Blvd., Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.
—Baker: Baker Workforce Development Center, 3262 Baker Blvd., Mondays through Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.
—Prairieville: BancorpSouth Bank, 13423 Louisiana 73, Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
—Amite: Amite Chamber of Commerce, 101 SE Central Ave., Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.
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The Baton Rouge Area Chamber has a Disaster Response guide on its website with multiple resources for companies in recovery mode. Louisiana Economic Development also has a Flood Recovery Assistance section on its website with resources for impacted businesses. The Louisiana Business Emergency Operations Center provides disaster-specific communications from the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness to industry associations and almost 2,200 registered member organizations to coordinate private-sector businesses and nonprofit organizations.
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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Disaster Help Desk is available 24/7 to help businesses mitigate disaster interruption and, after disasters, to enhance community economic recovery. It’s available free of charge to any caller to answer questions. Reach the Help Desk at 888-MY-BIZ-HELP. The organization also offers a Small Business Recovery Quick Guide and a Chambers of Commerce Recovery Quick Guide online.
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For additional resources, see Business Report‘s Resources and Information to Help Guide You Through Recovery and the Louisiana Flood Resource Center published by our sister publication, 225 magazine.
If there’s a disaster recovery-related topic that you’d like to see addressed in tomorrow’s edition of Daily Report Extra: Helping Capital Region Companies Rebuild, send us an email.