Hurricane Irma could have done much worse to Florida. The storm struck the Florida Keys as a Category 4 event, generating winds of up to 215 km/h but slowed over the mainland. However, by September 11, the Florida Division of Emergency Management estimated that almost half the state’s residents and untold businesses had lost power.
The hurricane was a reminder of how fragile the power grid can be under threat of hurricanes, tornadoes, ice storms, thunderstorms, fires and other mishaps. It’s important for construction companies to develop a data recovery plan to maintain and restore connectivity following such disruptive events.
For construction, the decision could mean the difference between remaining on schedule or falling behind as access to project documents is lost or significantly delayed. One of the key questions that needs to be answered: whether data back-up and storage should be cloud-based, or stored on servers located on the premises.
“You can make a case for storing data either way,” says Aiden Dalley, product marketing manager for Viewpoint, creators of Viewpoint Construction Software. “Even a hybrid solution can work for some companies, who might keep sensitive or proprietary information on company servers and more general data in the cloud.”
The most important issue is getting rapid access to data, no matter where it’s stored, so that companies can implement a business continuity plan.
“That’s important from a data perspective, but also from an operations perspective,” says Dalley. “What part of your operations do you need to get restarted first? For example, do you have a communications plan with subcontractors and suppliers?”
The primary advantage of on-premise storage is control.
“You purchase your own equipment, you buy as many cores and memory as you need, and you get to pick the brand you like,” says Jason Turner, manager of data centre operations at Viewpoint.
However, businesses typically pay for more storage than they require, and need to consider the company resources devoted to hiring experts and managing setup, maintenance, provisioning, system failures, and repairs.
“You’ve got to patch it, keep it up to date, and watch the vendor list for any known vulnerabilities,” says Turner.
Cloud storage can solve many of those problems. Rather than needing to hire staff with advanced hardware skills, cloud services can be managed locally by almost anyone with minimal training. Cloud technicians handle the heavy lifting.
Cloud services are also scalable. A new project can start small and then cost effectively add more resources as activity scales up. Providers such as Amazon Web Services offer auto-scaling, which automates the process for users.
“Your server gets templated, and Amazon keeps track of your demand,” says Turner. “As demand goes up, it spins up more servers, and as it goes down, it deletes those servers. You pay for what you’re using at the time you need it.”
Backing up data is also vital. Doing it yourself means a construction company must store date on premises and at another location to provide redundancy. Cloud storage incorporates that physical separation automatically.
“In every data centre, Amazon has two availability zones located miles apart,” says Turner. “They’re in different physical locations, so you build your app across those zones. In a disaster, one data centre could get wiped out, but the other one would be fine.”
Turner says construction companies are currently making decisions about data storage in a transitional period.
“The popularity of on-premise storage is fading and will continue to fade,” he says. “The cloud will become the overwhelmingly predominant storage system over the next five years.”
This content is sponsored by Viewpoint Construction Software in collaboration with ConstructConnect™ Media. To learn more about Viewpoint, visit www.viewpoint.com.