Natural disasters must figure into any organization's risk management calculations and measures.
31 Aug 2021

Natural Disasters: What Happens if the Cloud Goes Out?

Natural disasters must figure into any organization’s risk management calculations and measures. Climate change is making extreme weather events more common. Human presence and influence are ever-expanding, both of which increase the odds of your organization being impacted by one. Whether it’s storms, hurricanes, typhoons, floods, wildfires, or earthquakes, the chances of mother nature impacting your operational and technological footprint are increasing.

Having your critical data backed up somewhere is not enough. With digital transformation as the norm in recent years, much of your organization’s in-house tech is now integral. It cannot be written off in the event of force majeure. It needs to survive and might be called upon to do more than before if a disaster hits. Why? Because the Cloud might be out.

Natural disasters must figure into any organization's risk management calculations and measures.

Distributed Computing Has Changed Things

Distributed computing and digital transformation work hand and glove. This means at least some of your organization’s computing workload has moved from in-house devices to the Cloud. It may be inaccessible in the wake of natural disasters, leaving your in-house tech to do more in the interim – without specific resources generally taken for granted. 

Electrical access might be limited after a natural disaster.

No Power

After a disaster, your electrical access might be limited. You might be running on backup generators entirely (with a finite fuel supply), or you might be dealing with damaged local wiring. In either case, power from wall sockets will be at a premium. You’ll need your tech to work around it. 

No Connectivity

Any natural disaster that can disrupt your power supply can also disrupt your local cellular coverage or Wi-Fi. Analog radio backups can fill communications gaps. It will mean smoother post-disaster operations if your digital technology is compatible with it. But this is not always a given. And GPS, which is relatively immune to earthbound disruptions, may become even more pivotal to post-disaster situational awareness. So, you’ll need your maximum compatibility and maximum availability across your tech footprint. 

No Backups

Without distributed computing to fall back on, your in-house devices will be called upon to carry your organization’s entire computing workload. They’ll need powerful computing capabilities, so they don’t overheat or freeze up under that strain and extensive data storage that can be changed out and replaced without operational interruption.

And you should expect recovery delays. Disaster backup and disaster recovery are two different things. Just because you have backups for your mission-critical functions and data, it doesn’t mean recovering information will be easy. You should probably expect this process to take longer than expected, and so your in-house tech will need to last. Your device must be more than just powerful and spacious; it will need to be highly resistant to stress and damage. This is because repair may not be possible for quite some time. 

Rugged Tablets Fit the Bill

If the unthinkable happens to your organization, do not expect any in-house consumer-, business-, or enterprise-grade tech to survive. Go rugged if you need those guarantees. A fully rugged tablet is built to withstand the elements’ exposure and offer the post-disaster operational flexibility and capability you need. A tablet provides a very stable “one-piece” device that can survive almost any form of abuse and the mobility you want in a post-disaster scenario where you might not have access to a desk.

And if you’re lucky enough to have a place to sit and work, an attachable keyboard can ensure total productivity without mobility tradeoffs. You can consider this a critical feature when you’re on the lookout for rugged tablets. Here are other considerations.

Check For Certifications

There are a lot of tablet makers out there. Some devices on the market called “rugged” are made by consumer or enterprise device vendors that lack genuine rugged acumen. Devices labeled “business-rugged” or “semi-rugged” may tolerate the presence of water or other forms of environmental stress for short periods, but don’t expect them to survive a days-long storm or complete submersion in water.

But fully rugged devices have certifications. You’ll need an IP66 or higher rating to guarantee survival to long periods of rain or high-pressure water. If there’s saltwater in the equation, you’ll want MIL-STD-461G certification as well, on top ofMIL-STD-810H rating for general abuse, both of which require a device to survive a battery of tests originally devised for military-grade equipment. And if your rugged device needs to survive natural disasters such as earthquakes and the like, you’ll want to make sure it can tolerate a 6-foot-drop.  

And rugged devices do survive. Getac currently has fully rugged machines in the field in highly stressful conditions that have served, day in and day out, for seven years, and perhaps longer. In terms of shorter-term abuse, one of our tablets once had the honor of being used as a doorstop for a heavy fire door, and it was still fully operational afterward. So, they can take it.

Easy Battery Charging & Swapping

As mentioned earlier, wall socket power and access might be a problem after a natural disaster. So look for a tablet with long battery life, a multi-battery design, and hot-swap capabilities for each so that your device never needs to be plugged in or interrupted while operating. Also, look for a manufacturer that can supply a compatible battery charging hub because you don’t want to risk electrical and fire hazards.

A fully rugged tablet is built to withstand the elements' exposure and offer the post-disaster operational flexibility and capability you need.

Large & Bright Screen

It would help if you had a long battery life because you’ll also need a sizeable bright screen for your tablet. In case you’re using the attachable keyboard, the device will need to be large enough to offer a comfortable typing experience. If your tablet happens to become the center of something like a mission briefing, the screen must be large enough for everyone huddled around to see clearly. When that briefing is taking place under sunlight, that screen will need to be bright, at least 1,000 nits minimum (3-4x brighter than a consumer screen). But the screen can’t be too large, as a big tablet is impractical as a mobile device. Getac recommends 11-12-inches as the right size range.

Top-Notch Computing Specs

When considering a rugged tablet purchase, it can be easy to look at the computing specs and think, “Do I need all of this?” But remember, a rugged device needs to have a service life of at least five years. Its computing power must not fall behind the curve during any of that time. In the event of a disaster, a rugged tablet might be elevated from a support device to a primary computer. It may also be called upon to do intensive tasks 24 hours a day, for days, or perhaps more. It will need plenty of computing horsepower and plenty of data storage. The latter will need to be changeable without tools so that users can handle this task themselves without device interruption. 

Robust Security

In the wake of a disaster, your organization’s internal security could get compromised, and opportunists may strike. Rugged devices come with multi-factor security features, including facial and password recognition or smart card reading. The odds of an unauthorized party accessing your data will be very low. Sensitive information also won’t get compromised if anyone removes the SSD when the device is shared or left unattended.

Multiple Wireless Options & Legacy Options

In the event of a disaster, your device will need to utilize any wireless networking technology that’s currently available. If you’re Wi-Fi is out, you’ll need cellular (LTE) capabilities. And if that’s also out, GPS will become a situational awareness lifeline. Look for a dedicated GPS module in your tablets.

If you are going old school in terms of radio connectivity, you’ll need interoperability between your rugged tablets. Any legacy tech that’s involved, whether hardware or software. You don’t always get this kind of functionality with off-the-shelf enterprise gear. It’s better to go to a rugged specialist who will tailor your devices specifically with legacy tech in mind.

Getac is a specialist. Check out what we offer in a rugged tablet form factor in the 11-inch (F110) and 12-inch (K120) size range.

Kevin Lin is the president of Japan Nova Systems Co., Ltd. He has over 8 years’ experience in sales planning, operations, and account management in the fields of industrial PC, rugged computing, and enterprise industries.

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