On November 18, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report, Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters, claiming that scientists are “virtually certain” the world will have more extreme heat spells. By 2050, heat waves could be in the range of 5 degrees hotter, and 9 degrees by 2100. This increase in global temperatures means that heavy rainfall will occur more often, and tropical cyclones will become more severe.
“By the end of this century, intense, heavy rainstorms that now typically happen only once every 20 years are likely to occur about twice a decade”, the report stated.
So far, the predictions made in the report seem to be accurate: The last few years have seen a heightened level of natural disasters, prompting thousands of businesses around the world to reassess their continuity and disaster recovery plans. With more and more sensitive data being stored electronically, these companies have begun to take online data backup services seriously in a bid to reduce downtime and avoid extensive loss in revenue.
Last month, Thailand experienced its worst flooding in seven years. Bangkok – the center of commerce and trade in the country – was completely inundated, and hundreds of businesses lost a considerable amount of revenue as a result. Most businesses in Thailand had been slow to adopt cloud computing and backup data centers as part of a contingency plan, but in the wake of these historic floods, companies are taking their data backup seriously.
Monsinee Keeratikrainon, manager of global research firm Frost & Sullivan, said demand in cloud computing services was set to expand more quickly because of natural disasters like the flooding in Thailand.
“The cloud will likely get more attention from companies as they prepare business continuity plans for any future crisis,” she said.
So far, backup centers in Thailand have received a lot of attention: Demand for offsite data storage centers in Thailand rose by nearly 300% during the floods, mainly from manufacturers who needed to transfer their data to a safe location.
“The cloud market in Thailand is expected to grow by 50% to 1.5 billion baht (USD $47,800,000) next year,” Keeratikrainon said. This growth has the potential to prompt an investment of at least 500 million baht (USD $15,000,000) in expanding online data centers to accommodate demand.
But the growth of the cloud market isn’t confined to Thailand. As natural disasters increase worldwide, the demand for backup data centers is increasing with it. The United States has recently experienced one of its worst years in natural disasters. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US experienced over $55 billion in damages from natural disasters in 2011, the worst in US history. This has prompted US businesses to embrace data backup and disaster recovery systems. IT companies that provide support and strategy services for small and medium-sized businesses have experienced significant growth, citing the rise in natural disasters as one cause. ProviDyn, one such company, has increased revenue by 75% in the past year, and recently expanded their staff by 25 percent.
“At its basic level, controlling data is about controlling risk, which means being prepared in the event of disaster so that you can restore your business without losing its most important asset – information,” said Blaine Rigler, general manager of US-based Iron Mountain Data Backup and Recovery. “The amount of information that needs to be protected is growing at an incredible pace, creating new data challenges every day.”
And no other industry feels these challenges more than the healthcare industry. Natural disasters can cause a healthcare facility more than financial loss; it can potentially affect the lives of its patients if their personal charts or prescriptions are lost. Having their data stored remotely is crucial to restoring the facility’s operating conditions. Last May, a tornado leveled St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Joplin, Mo., completely wiping out their Electronic Health Records (EHR). But, because their medical records were all stored in a remote data center, they were able to reduce the devastation of the tornado and quickly return to providing for their patients.
“Within seven days, we had the EHR system up and running again, having retrieved the data from a mobile medical unit,” said Michael McCreary, chief of technology services for Sisters of Mercy Health Systems, the organization in charge of St. John’s rebuilding efforts.
“We were lucky to have a paperless system that could be restored fairly quickly,” McCreary continued. “Some of the hospital’s old paper records got blown 70 miles away.”