by Wally Moore

on August 11, 2017

in blog

Keep Operations on When the Lights Are Off

Businesses of all sizes can be impacted by a power outage, but for small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) in particular, a black out can be devastating. After all, a power outage equals downtime, which translates directly to lost revenue. SMBs are less likely to be able to absorb the impact of financial losses like an established, stable enterprise does. So, taking steps to mitigate the impact of power outages should be considered an essential part of business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) planning.

Power outages, a leading cause of business downtime today, are on the rise. According to Inside Energy, a public media energy reporting initiative, the five year annual average of power outages doubled every five years between 2000 and 2014. In other words, power outages are four times more common today than they were 15 years ago.

This post, and our Part 2 post on this topic, will help you better understand the tools and strategies that businesses use to minimize the impact of power outages. You’ll learn why power outages occur and why they are becoming increasingly common. You’ll also learn about preventative measures that can reduce the impact of power outages on your business. Finally, you’ll learn how these preventative measures alongside a robust data protection strategy can reduce the financial impact of an outage.


According to a 2014 report from research firm Climate Central, weather caused 80 percent of all US power outages between 2003-2012. Non-weather events such as accidents and equipment failure made up the remaining 20 percent. 59 percent of weather-related outages analyzed were caused by severe weather. The specific events ran the gamut from extreme cold to severe storms to heat waves, indicating that weather impacted businesses nationwide. Outages cost American businesses as much as $150 billion per year, according to the US Department of Energy (DOE), with weather-related disruptions costing the most per event. The majority of these large-scale outages resulted from damage to large transmission lines or substations, as opposed to the residential distribution network.

While weather is the most common trigger for US power outages, a major underlying issue is the country’s 100-year-old power grid. The grid, which has been described as “the largest machine on Earth” consists of more than 9,200 electric generating units with more than 1,000,000 megawatts of generating capacity connected to more than 300,000 miles of transmission lines, according to the DOE.

However, the grid was designed and built long before the wide array of technologies that rely on it today were around. The demand for electricity has skyrocketed in recent years thanks to population growth, air conditioning, and massive increases in personal and business technology use. Yet, the power industry invests very little in research and development—less than two percent of annual revenue, according to the DOE. As such, the grid is ill-equipped to keep up with today’s needs. According to Climate Central research, climate change will increase the risk of weather-related damage to the grid, impacting millions of people, and costing tens of billions of dollars each year.

While it is not yet a common cause of power outages, it is worth noting that cyber attacks have caused at least one large-scale power outage. According to Computer Weekly, tens of thousands of customers in Ukraine’s Ivano-Frankivsk region were without power for several hours on December 25, 2015 following an attack on two regional power distribution facilities.


The good news? There are a number of preventative measures that businesses can take to minimize the impact of power outages. Of course, the level of protection you require will be dictated by the specific needs of your business. So, it is important to evaluate your business’ tolerance for downtime associated with power outages, and invest in preventative tools accordingly. In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for every business.

Power outages can last anywhere from a few minutes to multiple days depending on the cause of the outage. Short-term outages, obviously, will have minimal impact—especially if there is no damage to facilities or equipment. Long-term power outages, such as those resulting from severe weather, require planning to ensure that business operations can resume within a reasonable timeframe.

Consider using cloud-based email and other applications, so users can easily work from home while your business is without power. Cloud-based file sync and share (FSS) services can give users access to files they need from anywhere, on any device. Not all outages are widespread regional events. Depending on the nature of your business, giving employees the ability to work remotely can be an effective method for returning business operations quickly.

Businesses are impacted by power outages in different ways. Obviously, without power, electronic equipment is inoperable. But, more importantly, power outages can cause devastating damage to a business’s IT systems, which can significantly increase downtime after power is restored. This is because electronic devices, including desktop computers, servers, printers, etc., require a steady electrical current. When that current becomes irregular, permanent damage to system components can occur.

In Part 2 of this topic we’ll discuss the different technologies available to your business to protect you against power outages.

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Dedicated to your success,

Wally Moore
dts|infotech . . . computer networks that work