October 18, 2017
In September, Puerto Rico was hit by two hurricanes, Irma and Maria, within a span of just a few weeks. That crisis left much of the infrastructure damages and all but eliminated network connectivity entirely. Upwards of 90% of the cell towers on the island were disabled, so one of the only sources of internet connectivity were those establishments with a direct connection to the Transatlantic Communications Cable. In the wake of these disasters, tech companies have stepped in to try to assist Puerto Rico in their rebuilding efforts. Most notably, Facebook and Tesla.
Tesla Suggests Solar Power for Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico’s power grid depends on burning imported oil to keep the power running, and since the disaster, restoration efforts have been difficult. According to government officials, only 9% of the population had power two weeks after the event.
Tesla has suggested installing their solar power unit to power the entire island. Tesla has done this before for smaller islands in the pacific, such as Kauai in Hawaii, but those islands vary greatly in size. Kauai has a population of 70,000, while Puerto Rico’s population numbers 3.4 million. However, Tesla claims their solution is scalable, and though they haven’t done a project of this size before, they are confident it can be done.
Facebook Collaborates with NetHope
Facebook is partnering with NetHope, a group of international non-governmental organizations to address the connectivity issues in Puerto Rico after the hurricanes. Facebook’s involvement is going to take several forms. They will be sending volunteers, support for local internet service providers and mobile network operators as they bring Puerto Rico back online.
In addition, Facebook will also be sharing data from their Connectivity Lab which as generated valuable data on population densities in areas around the world. Their maps, incorporating census data and scanning for human-made structures, reveals areas of human population around the world down to a resolution of 5 meters. They have shared the last snapshots of Puerto Rico’s populated areas before the storm hit with NetHope. They can then use this information to triage the damage and prioritize their efforts in restoring connectivity across the whole island.
Normally when we talk about disaster recovery, we need to make the point that not all disasters are tornados, forest fires, and hurricanes, but some of them are. When they strike, you need to be ready to respond with a solution. Furthermore, this goes to stress why simply backing up your data isn’t enough and why colocations in different geographic areas is essential. Almost all of Puerto Rico lost power and somewhere around 90% lost internet connectivity entirely. Backups or DR strategies that just kept data elsewhere on the island would not have been effective in this situation.
A sound backup strategy needs to account for a wide range of factors including a scenario that affects more than just your business. Without cell towers or internet connectivity, it would be impossible to even notify customers and employees if and when the business would be back in business or how to coordinate recovery efforts. When a disaster hits, there’s a million factors at play all at once, and without a defined and tested plan, there is little that can be done to recover the business without substantial losses.
Mindsight will be contributing to disaster relief efforts in October and November through our giving back initiatives and Hunger Games. Check back to the blog for a future article on our Hunger Games initiative.
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