Is your business prepared for the top worldwide business threats?
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North America – West
The largest threats to this region are tornadoes, floods and wildfires. In 2011, there were 358 tornadoes in total across 21 states and Canada.
North America East & Gulf Coast
On average, 5 hurricanes strike this coastline every three years, floods and winds destroying buildings & infrastructure.
Central and South America
The Pacific Coasts are located along the proverbial “Ring of Fire”. 3+ earthquakes over 4.0 on the Richter scale occur each day in Peru, Bolivia and Chile.
From 1998 to 2009, earthquakes were the natural disaster with the greatest impact in Europe, with almost 19,000 fatalities and losses of approximately $29 billion Euros.
Africa’s natural hazards are mainly epidemics, endemic diseases, drought, floods, agricultural pests and bush fires, but some areas are also susceptible to earthquakes, cyclones and volcanic eruptions.
North East Asia
A huge triangle-shaped tectonic region in eastern Asia plays host to numerous major earthquakes.
South East Asia
The number of category 4 and 5 typhoons — those with wind speeds between 130 mph and 157 mph or higher, increased to around seven per year from less than five in late 1970s.
Earthquakes are by far the largest natural disaster in the Middle East. Political uncertainty creates a region where the business climate can change very rapidly.
The Queensland floods of 2010-2011 left three quarters of the state declared as a disaster zone and resulted in the forced evacuation of thousands of people.
With the movement towards DR programs and standards being set by a centralized team, and a reduction in IT resources in remote offices, IT professionals are more and more likely to be asked to manage services at remote offices. This trend is even extending to managing foreign locations as technology advances makes it less necessary for IT staff to be physically located at every corporate site. While many threats to corporate data vary little by geography, ransomware for example, there are IT challenges unique to each region of the globe. A different combination of data and application protection strategies may be required for each foreign site depending on local threats to data and application uptime.
WorldWide Threats Against IT Services
Threats against data and applications come from many different sources. Internal threats are, by far more common than those from external sources and include employee issues and poor-quality software accounting for almost half of all downtime. Add server room issues and almost two thirds of application downtime emanates from inside the organization. These affect all organizations regardless of geographic location.
Employees are the number one cause of application downtime. Failing to configure systems correctly, poor training, and not recording changes to system settings can all cause of system downtime.
Included in this category are malicious employees that purposefully delete files or disable systems as revenge for a perceived offense. The ability to roll back systems and data to versions that operated correctly before they were affected is the only real defense against this, the greatest threat to your IT operations.
The number two cause of downtime is bad software. Software updates that introduce more issues then they fix, and upgrades that break links to integrated systems, introduce hangs, and uncontrolled restarts can bring production applications to a halt. While software releases are generally marketed as being production ready, you never really know how they will perform until they are installed in your unique environment.
A backup and recovery solution that offers Copy Data Management will allow you to easily bring up a test / dev environment from your backups to try new software in an environment identical to, but isolated from your production infrastructure. Testing should be mandated prior to any new software installations.
Local Hardware Failure
Servers and storage arrays are prone to disk, mother board and power supply failures. While manufacturers have implemented redundancy and rapid recovery strategies, data center hardware failures still account for anywhere between five to 20% of application downtime depending on how you classify them. Every data center should have local backup and recovery appliances to provide basic data protection and near instantaneous local application recoveries.
Enterprises in 150 countries reported they were infected with the WannaCry virus in 2017. Ransomware will encrypt your data files and extort bitcoin ransoms as high as 100’s of thousands of dollars. Basic virus scanners will not protect against the newest variants as they are more likely to exploit gaps in Microsoft operating systems or come in via network interconnections.
Advanced ransomware protections should be deployed, including automated ransomware detection, data backup and fast rollbacks to pre-infected versions.
The loss of power can be very local (backhoe hitting a buried powerline) to grid-wide events (hurricane). In addition some regions of the world suffer from system wide black and brown (reduced voltage) outs due to the lack of generation capacity. Fully redundant power generators are expensive but Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPS) can provide enough power to save data to disks, gracefully shut down servers, and perform data backups to non-volatile media such as removable disks, tape or the cloud.
Unique Regional Threats
Threats that vary by geographic location come in two categories – nature and politics. Earthquakes, storms, and floods affect different regions of the world more directly and political instability will vary greatly depending on local situations.
Listed below are nine geographic zones and the dominant disasters that will affect local application uptime as well as recommended protection strategies.
North America East Coast
Each year, on average, 10 tropical storms, of which six become hurricanes, develop over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or Gulf of Mexico from June to November. Many of these remain over the ocean; however, about five hurricanes strike the United States coastline every three years. These have the power to totally destroy buildings, including any IT infrastructure inside. Hurricane zones are quite large and require widely dispersed secondary sites to ensure IT recovery infrastructure is not affected by the same storm.
Flooding can be caused by a wide variety of factors, including heavy rains, rising sea levels, storm surges, and dam and levee failures. Along the east coast of North America, the main reason for flooding is due to hurricanes and strong storms. In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina struck, the ensuing storm surge caused extreme flooding, especially in New Orleans. However storm surges and flooding have occurred as far north as New York and New Jersey from hurricane Sandy. Floods are becoming more frequent in the US and affect more locations as climate change increases.
North America West Coast
Tornadoes are more commonly found in the Midwest and central states, but have also been known to occur in the east coast states. Between April 25th-28th, 2011, the largest tornado outbreak ever recorded struck the southern, Midwestern, and eastern United States. In the outbreak, there were 358 tornadoes in total across 21 states and even into Canada. While the damage from each storm can be limited to a small geography, the number and frequency of tornadoes is increasing and more directly affecting IT infrastructure in their path.
In California, there is a long history of costly flooding. Starting on December 24th 1861, and lasting for 45 days, the largest flood in California’s history, known as the Great Flood of 1862, caused chaos and loss. Floods will also occur near rivers and as a result of strong seasonal rainstorms. Some floods can be very isolated events but take place in locations with little previous history of damage such as occurred in Nashville in 2010.
If you live on the west coast, you’ve probably heard the warnings the big one is coming. Minor earthquakes strike California regularly, with some causing considerable damage. But it is not just in California. Three of the largest earthquakes in Canadian history have occurred along the Queen Charlotte Fault. The fault is named for the Queen Charlotte Islands (now Haida Gwaii) and runs along Canada’s west coast and into Alaska. Earthquakes ranging from 7.4 to 8.1 on the Richter scale are common with the second strongest recorded earthquake (magnitude of 9.2) in world history occurring in Alaska.
Wildfires are a continuing threat in US west coast. As development has spread into more mountainous areas the threat of sudden fire threatens those homes and businesses. Building codes and defensive zones are improving but the threat is expanding. From January 1 to December 22, 2017, there were 66,131 wildfires, compared to 65,575 wildfires in the same period in 2016, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. About 9.8 million acres were burned in the 2017 period, compared with 5.4 million in 2016. In Napa, California alone, 23 commercial businesses were destroyed over the course of the single fire event.
Central and South America
Earthquakes are common on the Pacific coasts of Central and South America as this is the proverbial “Ring of Fire”. The Ring of Fire is a horseshoe shape pattern of volcanoes, ocean trenches and plate movements from New Zealand up to Japan, through to Alaska and down to South America. There are 452 volcanoes located within the Ring of Fire, housing 75% of the entire world’s volcanoes. Approximately 90% of earthquakes around the world occur along the Ring of Fire as well. Three or more earthquakes over 4.0 on the Richter scale occur each day in Peru, Bolivia and Chile. The strongest recorded earthquake in history was a 9.5 in Chile in 1960.
From 1992 to 2011, Central America was hit by nearly 70 hurricanes with an average of 8 events per year. Many times, it’s not the wind or storm surge that cause loss of life and negative impact on businesses, but rather rainfall flooding and the resulting mudslides. This is particularly the case with slow-moving storms or storms that move into regions with mountainous terrain, where rainfall is enhanced. Even a Category 1 hurricane can cause over $1B in damage to homes and businesses.
Located along the Ring of Fire, the Central America isthmus contains many volcanoes, some are clearly dormant, while others are considered potentially active, and a few are currently active and have erupted in modern times. The vast majority of potentially damaging volcanoes stand in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. The second most potentially dangerous volcano in the world is Apoyeque in Nicaragua, which is next to its capital Managua, with a population of more than 2m. Apoyeque has the threat of an underwater eruption, which could cause a large lake tsunami, as well as the danger posed by the eruption itself. While lava flows will damage terrain and building only in the immediate area, ash plumes can spread for hundred of miles, shutting down airports and interrupting businesses no where’s near the site of the eruption.
Executives in Latin America are concerned with political and economic risks. Business leaders in the region display a lack of confidence in the state, both in terms of the legal frameworks in which business operate, levels of corruption, and the economic and social management of several countries. Flexibility and the option to replicate corporate information quickly out of the country should be part of every disaster plan.
From 1998 to 2009, earthquakes were the natural disaster with the greatest impact in Europe, with almost 19,000 fatalities and losses of approximately $29 billion Euros. One of the worst earthquakes to ever occur in European history happened in Spain in 1954. The earthquake measured at 7.8 on the Richter scale, and was followed by a strong tsunami. In Europe, the countries that see earthquakes most commonly are Greece, Italy, and Turkey.
Flooding has a long history throughout Europe. In late May and early June of 2017, central Europe was hit with one of the worst floods in over 500 years. The Danube, Rhine and Elbe rivers reached extremely high levels, and paired with heavy rain, caused $16 billion in damages across Germany, Austria, Czech Republic and Switzerland, including losses of 20 to 25 lives. In 2002, week-long floods ravaged parts of Central Europe. Areas affected included Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary, Poland, and Croatia, with approximately 90 fatalities.
There are over 60 active volcanoes throughout Europe, and two of the most active volcanoes in the world are found in Italy Mount Etna and Mount Vesuvius. In the past 200 years, Vesuvius has erupted four times, all of which were quite explosive. Mount Etna stands as the highest European volcano, and is continuously active, releasing smoke, ash and magma. It recently erupted on October 26th, 2013. Besides Italy, there are active volcanoes in Germany, Iceland, Turkey, Greece, and Spain.
While not generally thought of as a direct threat to businesses, the effect of heat waves is to cause widespread power failures or brownouts. Thermal power plants (coal and nuclear) had to ramp down production in numerous countries due to a lack of cooling water, but the heat also affected solar power production. Solar power arrays efficiency drops .5% per degree Celsius of the panel, not the air around it. In France in July 2015, a heat wave led to power outages at the beginning of July when transformer stations failed and businesses were ordered to reduce power consumption.
South and Southeast Asia
Typhoons / Cyclones
A typhoon differs from a cyclone or hurricane only on the basis of location. A hurricane is a storm that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean and northeastern Pacific Ocean, a typhoon occurs in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, and a cyclone occurs in the south Pacific or Indian Ocean. Over the past 40 years, typhoons that strike East and Southeast Asia have become stronger — and presumably will only continue gathering strength, due to climate change. The likely cause is warming ocean waters near the coasts. The number of category 4 and 5 typhoons — those with wind speeds between 130 mph and 157 mph or higher, increased to around seven per year from less than five in late 1970s.
Floods are primarily caused by Monsoons and typhoons, particularly in India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Thailand, but can occur with just unusually heavy rains due to the prevalence of low lying areas. Most major rivers in south China and South East Asia have a long history of flooding during spring rains.
North and East Asia
A huge triangle-shaped tectonic region in eastern Asia plays host to numerous major earthquakes. The three boundaries of this region are roughly the Himalayan arc to the Thai border, from Thailand up to Mongolia and from Mongolia back to the Himalayan region. This area includes some of the most densely populated areas of the world. Earthquakes also emanate from the “ring of Fire” along the coasts of Taiwan, China, Philippines, and up into Japan.
The Philippines receive the brunt of the landfalls, with China and Japan being impacted slightly less. Some of the deadliest typhoons in history have struck China. Southern China has the longest record of typhoon impacts for the region, with a thousand-year sample within their archives. Taiwan has received the wettest known typhoon on record for the northwest Pacific tropical cyclone basins.
Australia / New Zealand
Historically, bushfires, floods, and cyclones have caused loss of life and significant damage to property and infrastructure. Since brushfires occur away from cities and datacenters we will focus on the others. While there are minor earthquakes, most are under 4.0 on the Richter scale and there has never been one over 7.0.
Cyclones regularly hit Australia. The largest cyclone to ever hit Australia was Cyclone Tracy which wreaked havoc across Darwin on Christmas Eve 1974. By the next morning most of the town’s inhabitants were completely homeless and Darwin was cut off from the world without any means of communication.
The Queensland floods of 2010-2011 left three quarters of the state declared as a disaster zone and resulted in the forced evacuation of thousands of people. Communities and towns were left damaged when the Fitzroy and Burnett Rivers flooded as did the Condamine, Ballone and Mary Rivers. The Lockyer Valley was also hard hit and devastated communities. Eventually the overflow of water impacted Brisbane River, which lead to 70 towns being flooded, killing 35 people.
The vast majority of armed conflicts in West Africa since independence have been internal, marked by 5 large-scale civil wars in the last 30 years. In the new millennium, the incidence of civil wars and large-scale conflicts dropped off dramatically, representing a watershed in the political stabilization of the region. However, other forms of political violence and new threats have emerged such as election related violence, longstanding ethno-national conflict, drug trafficking, maritime piracy, and religious extremism.
Other Natural Disasters
Africa’s natural hazards are mainly epidemics, endemic diseases, drought, floods, agricultural pests and bush fires, but some areas are also susceptible to earthquakes, cyclones and volcanic eruptions. Floods – In 2017 the rains have created flood disasters which have led to a death toll numbering in hundreds. Many of the recent flood disasters in Africa have been exacerbated by years of poorly planned drainage systems.
The reason Africa gets fewer and less severe earthquakes is because of their tectonic plates borders are in the middle of the ocean. However they do get some, mostly in the north in countries like Morocco, Yemen and the Gulf of Aden.
Africa, somewhat surprisingly, consistently ranks in the top five volcanic regions in numbers of people living in proximity to volcanoes within distances of 5-100 km. This largely reflects the high number of broad volcanic fields and calderas in proximity to cities such as Adis Abeba, Nairobi, and Goma in the East African Rift and along the Cameroon Line of SW Africa. This means while there are fewer eruptions than other parts of the world, when there is one the damage can be catastrophic.
Earthquakes are by far the largest natural disaster in the Middle East. Over the last 50 years there have been six earthquakes of at least 6.0 on the Richter scale that have killed hundreds of people each. These include Cairo in 1992, Yemen in 1982, two in Turkey in 1999 and 2011, and two in Iran in 1990 and 2003.
The Arab Spring created political uncertainty in many countries including Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Algeria. Add this list to already existing unstable political situations in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq and you have a region where the business climate can change very rapidly. Even NATO member Turkey is going through rapid political change that could affect business operations.
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