A cautionary tale of disaster, backups, and recovery that comes from the recent wildfire disaster at Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Fort McMurray Disaster

fort mcmurray disasterThe Fort McMurray wildfire started May 1st and was actually the ninth wildfire since the beginning of the year. This one though was much closer to the town and due to the hot dry temperatures spread quickly. The first neighborhood was told to get ready for evacuation that same day. The wildfire spread and grew so quickly that many did not even make it back to their home before being evacuated. Some people were forced to even leave their pets behind. 80,000 people were eventually evacuated, with homes and businesses destroyed. It was a full on disaster and is not be the end of Alberta’s wildfire season.

What Are The Chances?

When you think about your disaster recovery or business continuity plan do you really think about a full on disaster? No, we tend to think about what are the chances of this or that occuring and how do we mitigate it. Most companies tend to more focus on the inconvenience of “the server failed and I have all these people sitting around with nothing to do. How do I get that data back quickly?”, as this is much more likely to occur.
However, as this one business found out; sometimes the disaster really is all encompassing and out of your control, and you need to plan for that too.

But The Data Was Offsite!

offsite-data-disaster-recovery-300This company was large enough to employ a few people and had a central server where data was kept. That data was critical to the business and so was backed up and a copy was even taken offsite on a regular basis. Does this sound familiar? Are you doing the same? As you’ll see this is not enough.

This business is unfortunately one of the businesses that completely burned from the Fort McMurray disaster. There is no structure or contents left. Employees are fortunately all okay, but the business location is gone. Now under even normal circumstances this is incredibly bad and would be considered a major disaster. However under normal circumstances the business would go to the offsite data and would recover.

The scope of this particular disaster is bigger than just the business and in this circumstance makes all the difference.
The offsite backup that was being taken offsite was being taken to a home, and that home was also completely burned.
Now there is no server – and there is no backup. A tragic loss.

You Need A Better Offsite Location

This is, of course, an extreme example but it emphasizes the danger of saying; “What are the chances?” when thinking about critical business data and what you need to do to protect it.
You need a better offsite location than your home, or even a bank box. You need something that is geographically removed from your area so that it would not be impacted by a full on disaster like Fort McMurray just had.

fort mcmurray cloud backupThat geographically removed, secure safe spot to protect your data is The Cloud. A cloud backup is easy to work with, and costs probably the same as what you’re doing now. Your backup data can be sitting in another city within Canada and will be available to your to recover from. It doesn’t require big changes to your current disaster recovery plan, but it does make it better, more resilient. Yes this is a plug for cloud backups – but I bet this company in Fort McMurray wishes they had data sitting somewhere in the cloud right now.

The Fort McMurray disaster should prompt all of us to think again about our data backup needs and requirements as they fit into our disaster recovery/business continuity plans. Think about what this impacted company is going through right now, and use this tragic example as a lesson of what could happen in your business.

ps. Do you know of any other, better, backup tales from Fort McMurray? I’d love to hear them.