Is Your Home Office Ready For Disaster?

Scott Beland

Summer has not made its official start yet, but we have already seen some fairly unusual and extreme weather.  Whether you are a full-time home-office worker, working from home temporarily over the summer, or planning a “working vacation” (and if you are, shame on you!), there are precautions to be taken to protect your sensitive data and ensure that you have as consistent a connection as possible.

For most of us, the checklist begins at the wall where your ISP has its interface.  If you use satellite or cellular connection, then this doesn’t really apply to you.  Most ISPs have battery backup built into their termination equipment.  Do you know how long that battery will last?  Do you know the last time that the battery was checked\replaced?

Moving into your house, if you have a cable modem from the ISP (which might also have your WiFi interface built in), is that connected to a UPS (uninterruptable power source)?  Unless you are living in a solar-powered house or have a generator backup, your first line of defense against a sudden loss of connectivity will be having that device on a UPS.  If that modem is in a room other than where you have the rest of your home office equipment, it would be worthwhile to have a small UPS for that device.  In addition to providing backup power, most UPS devices will also have surge suppressors for the power and cable connections.

Speaking of the UPS, if you have one, how long have you had it, and when was the last time you tested it?

So let’s say all of your backup power is in place and the power to your house drops.  What should you do?  The first thing is to unplug from the UPS all non-essential equipment, such as printers and monitors if you have one connected to a laptop.  If you are using a desktop PC, consider shutting off the display and turning it on only when you need to use it.  If you are using an IP phone, make sure that equipment is plugged into the UPS.

Other considerations:

  • If your power hasn’t returned in a reasonable amount of time (say 15 minutes) assume that the issue might take a while to resolve and consider moving to another location or starting your orderly shutdown of your systems. Don’t assume that the power company knows you don’t have power.  Report an outage if it goes longer than any typical temporary outages you’ve experienced in the past.
  • Make sure you are taking regular backups of your system. If you use an external drive, take it with you in the event that you have to leave your home for an extended period of time.
  • Spares: consider having extra, charged laptop and cell phone batteries on hand.