01
- November
2011
Posted By : Gom Jabbar
Hurricane Season in the Caribbean

The past couple of months at work have been hectic, with a sharp uptick in disaster recovery and business continuity-related work. Failover. Offsite backups. Contingency plans. Hot sites. Warm sites. Cold sites.

Late summer, customers are stocking up on the IT equivalent of ammo and canned goods like the zombie apocalypse is nigh. Why? September/October is the peak of hurricane season in the Caribbean. And, like Bruce Campbell in Army of Darkness, I brandish the chainsaw against the undead hordes that shuffle to the beat of corporate Weltschmerz. Groovy.

From the height of summer until the onset of winter (in nerd terms, from roughly Comic-Con until the Leonids), tropical cyclones zing about the North Atlantic like it’s the world’s biggest pinball machine. In September especially, the hot sea surface lights up the playfield, the Coriolis effect snaps the plunger, and we’re in multiball mode. Ding Da-Ding Ding Ding.

We keep an eye on the storms emerging from the Cape Verde area; obsessively refresh satellite photos on www.nhc.noaa.gov and www.stormpulse.com to see if we can discern a spiral shape distilling out of the ether. Cyclogenesis. The projected storm paths from 15 different weather agencies never agree with each other; 15 different-colored lines blooming out in 15 different trajectories. But it helps us figure out how likely the hurricane will hit us, and when. For all the raw data that is fed into the weather algorithms, there are too many variables to forecast beyond the next 48 hours. The consensus of Vegas odds.

It’s better to have contingency plans in place before the season begins, of course. But sometimes the customer only tweaks to the dangers when that first zombie appears on the horizon. I can advocate fault tolerance and single points of failure all year round, but a Cat 4 hurricane on a direct path to your business beats any pre-sales pitch in the world. Some of those suckers are so big, they don’t even need to make landfall to shut down the entire country.

Throughout September and October, whenever a hurricane approached our island, I’d takedown networks, take data offsite, run manual backups, vMotion servers to different datacenters. Anything to mitigate a bit of risk. In most instances, this is simply last minute just-in-case stuff to supplement the existing business continuity measures. Then we hunker down at home for the worst of the storm. When the hurricane has passed, the site owners and I inspect the business for physical damage. We either restore any loss of functionality to the primary site, or put the contingency plans into effect.

At Halloween, the weather’s cooled down some, and the hurricanes lurch about only infrequently. My workload has started easing. In a couple of months, we’ll see some winter storms, but probably nothing as bad as a major hurricane. Many customers will probably de-prioritize their business continuity plans until the next hurricane season. The immediate danger’s passed. Nothing bad will happen until next year. Probably. Any character in a B-grade horror movie who espouses that philosophy is usually the first to bite it, horribly.

On my front porch, I am scarfing down KitKats from a plastic pumpkin, or as I like to call it, “performing essential quality control on behalf of the trick-or-treaters.” Tonight’s costumes are not especially inspired, but I see a kid in Tom Savini-quality zombie makeup ambling down the road with all the verisimilitude of a pro hockey player with a broken ankle hobbling for the penalty box. The affliction doesn’t stop him from elbowing his way through a pack of teenagers in a Jersey Shore group costume. The sequined Snooki scowls at him expressively.

It’s like a post-modern Dawn of the Dead vignette. I’m giving that zombie kid extra candy.