This article was updated on July 30, 2018.

What happens if your network goes down thanks to a power outage, hardware failure or natural disaster? Do you know if your HR data is redundantly stored, automatically backed up and ready to failover? Or, are you simply hoping for the best with information that isn't properly secured? With large organizations — like Delta Air Lines and AT&T — dealing with outages and the resulting fallout with their customers, it's worth making sure you're not running unnecessary HR data risk.

Natural Disasters and Electrical Failures

For Delta Air Lines, problems with a single piece of electrical equipment caused huge headaches for its passengers. According to The New York Times, a failure of a piece of electrical equipment at their Atlanta facilities caused the airline giant to ground around 1,000 flights — stranding thousands of passengers and prompting the business to offer refunds, vouchers and hotel stays where warranted.

Also consider the problems that plagued AT&T in Louisiana. Widespread flooding wreaked havoc on a switching center in Baton Rouge and caused a major network outage, per RCR Wireless News. Here, natural disaster is to blame, not faulty equipment, but the results are the same — consumers without service.

Protecting Your Assets

With the severity of natural disasters difficult to gauge, and the unpredictable potential of server hardware to fail, businesses must develop a set of critical best practices when it comes to safeguarding HR data.

Here are few ways to get started:

Go Redundant

Make sure your HR data is stored in more than one place, for example across multiple cloud servers. You need to ensure that your cloud provider meets both compliance and security standards. By creating data redundancy, you significantly decrease the chance of total lockout during a disaster or power outage — especially if your cloud provider isn't located in the same geographical area.

Automate Info Dumps

It's critical to have multiple destinations for your data. But you also need to set up regularly scheduled, automated transmission of this data to designated sites. While local IT oversight of this process is essential, leaving it in the hands of even experienced IT pros opens up the door for potential human error. Instead, make sure you have the most up-to-date version of your information stored off-site at all times by leveraging automation.

Stay Hot

There are two types of off-site data storage — cold and hot. Cold storage often relies on physical mediums, such as tape, to ensure long-term survival of data you don't need every day. Hot storage operates like a mirror image of your own server stack and is available whenever, wherever you need it. Many cloud providers now offer disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS), which makes use of hot sites for automatic failover in case of a disaster.

Double Down

Storing information off-site and leveraging hot site cloud providers is a great way to lower your HR data risk. It's also a good idea to keep at least one copy of all this information close to home. Why? Because not even big providers like Amazon.com are immune to failure, according to ZDNet — and if your cloud fails, you need a backup to your backup so data doesn't suddenly go dark.

Know Your Age

How old is your hardware? If you're using servers that are near their end or running hot — as the sheer volume of HR data ramps up but IT investment stays flat — be prepared for increased risk. Older servers always have a higher chance of failure, even more so if they're pushed to their limits or are in the queue for replacement. What's more, many aging systems struggle with new network protocols and performance expectations, making them a limiting factor when it comes to agile data storage and access.

Outages can occur anywhere, anytime and hit any business — as Delta Air Lines, AT&T and Amazon.com demonstrate. What does this mean for your critical HR data? It means that while you can't predict power outages, severe weather or hardware failures, you can be prepared to meet this challenge head on by establishing ideal protection and access practices well before data disaster strikes.

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