How Climate Change Impacts IT
While our heads (and data) might be in the cloud, ultimately our IT and technology infrastructure lives right here on a planet that is facing an existential crisis. Global climate change is happening, though its causes continue to be a societal debate. While we know that global climate has changed since before recorded human history, many pinpoint the source of our current pattern changes to man-made reasons, with a steady focus on greenhouse gases, carbon emissions, and energy consumption. In any case, the planet is experiencing greater weather swings and events than recent memory can extend — floods, severe heat, blizzards, hurricanes, intense rain, and droughts appear to occur more often.
These climate events do not only have an impact on lives. Significant events can affect the continuity and survival of industries and businesses, especially when they affect information technology systems. Climate change has a tangible and increasingly critical effect on IT — it is a business continuity issue, it is a cost issue, and it is also a core strategy issue. It is high time that we consider the impact of climate change on IT.
Tech legend Elon Musk halted purchases of Tesla vehicles with Bitcoin last year due to the “rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining,” which experts estimate uses more energy than entire countries such as Sweden and Malaysia. Musk is not the only one to sound the alarm on the environmental impact of Bitcoin — Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has also warned that it uses a “staggering” amount of power. Regardless of whether Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are a polluters or not, the negative connotations around the impact of its enormous energy consumption on the environment has affected its valuation, and even maybe its future trajectory.
Threats are Significant and Real
Historical weather events such as hurricanes Sandy and Katrina continue to echo years after their arrival. However, these unstoppable and formerly outlier events occur every year with greater frequency, causing hundreds of billions in damages and massive outages. Their aftermath must always be dealt with. In February of 2021, Texas endured a weeklong flash winter storm completely out of the weather norm. Known as the Great Texas Snow Storm, “Snovid,” or the “Snowmageddon,” the economic impact of that event was a staggering $200 billion.
Disaster preparation and recovery are just a couple of reasons why organizations must focus on continual backups, replication to offsite locations, and the drive to create zero-downtime resilience through disaster recovery plans, power backups, and nimble cloud architectures. We do this because the threats are real and becoming more frequent. With enough planning, the right partners, tools and capabilities, you can get through these incidents with a minimal interruption to the business.
Inside a Crisis
Rather than drive inside all the reasons why you should prepare for a crisis and how, it would be better to set the tone of what happens behind the scenes When a crisis hits, it can appear to be a frantic scene. When a severe weather event hits and creates an IT disruption, efficient operations and a return to normal operations are more critical than ever for all impacted.
The early moments are the most critical, but recovery events include:
- Emergency Notifications
- Monitoring of Disaster Recovery Operations
- Status updates
In a pressure-filled scenario, the impact of any potential missteps is amplified, adding time to the recovery efforts. Your IT disaster recovery plan must be clear, it must be relevant, and your team must be ready to execute its well-rehearsed disaster recovery plan. This is where all the documentation, preparation, planning, and partnerships meet the road.
Hackers Ready to Pounce
Here’s the bad news. When a weather disaster strikes an organization or locality, it is public information. You can expect that opportunistic scammers are somewhere close behind, just like vultures. That’s where you will see the relief scams, phony fundraisers, and other schemes that follow weather events. You will also see social hack attempts and phishing attempts come through when there are known disruptions in the air.
Unexpected disruptions and recovery efforts can open security vulnerabilities. For example, in the event where a backup or tertiary site comes online, there is an opening to take advantage of the possibility that the backup systems are exposed in any way—patches, permissions, vulnerabilities, default passwords, configuration, etc. Just as in all cybersecurity, it comes down to the weakest link in the chain. If one entry point behind the virtual security wall can be exploited during a weather-related recovery, that is all an outsider needs to find.
Tech as Climate Readiness
The challenge of business continuity is a core business mission, but with an increase in climate change related events around us, this challenge is more critical than ever before. Preparations, planning, and the right partnerships matter. Capabilities matter. Depending on the business in question and the locality of its IT systems, the impact that climate bears upon business continuity will vary. Almost every organization should prepare to leverage principles including offsite strategies, resiliency, security considerations, geographic strategy, and cloud technology in order to step up to this modern-day challenge.
With one part process, another part readiness, and another part technology-focused, organizations that embrace cloud infrastructure have greater capabilities to roll through crisis scenarios because they have improved resiliency, speed, and the very nature of security is aligned with the fluid nature of cloud. We cannot know in advance the timing and arrival of every calamitous weather event, but we can prepare with better process, enabled by better tools to adapt through multiple situations.