As this post is written, the menacing Hurricane Gustav has just been downgraded to a tropical storm. While the Gulf Coast is still being pummeled with awesome wind, rain, and surf and is not out of the woods yet, it looks like we will avoid our worst fears of a Katrina-like catastrophe.

Regardless, with additional storms already on the horizon, the importance of digital disaster recovery can’t be stressed enough. Once the people are safe and accounted for, the data is the next most important thing. An ElephantDrive user and friend of the company from South Florida sent us the below posting as he prepares for the next batch of rough weather, and we wanted to share it with you…

In mid-August, we got “hammered” by the outer bands of Tropical Storm Fay as it passed through Key West and started its long journey up the length of Florida. The storm was a hundred and fifty miles down the road but we still caught plenty of wind and rain. Tropical cyclones are different than other major weather disturbances. It’s hard to plan for earthquakes and tornadoes. You never know when they are coming. I can’t recall an earthquake affecting South Florida. Tornadoes can spin off of tropical and sub-tropical weather and when they do occur, they are relatively rare occurrences and tend to be small and nowhere near as damaging as those big Midwest monsters. In their stead, we get more than our share of tropical storms and hurricanes with their wind, rain and power spikes/outages. We had plenty of warning about Tropical Storm Fay and, as usual, I tried to be prepared. Prior to Fay’s arrival I went through my checklist. It’s easier now that I have wind/impact resistant windows and doors on the perimeter of my concrete block home (a structure that survived the “Category V” killer winds of Hurricane Andrew).

I had my whole house automatic generator serviced, prior to Fay’s arrival, and in the process, discovered (and repaired) a major leak in the output hose of the thousand gallon propane tank, sunk, like a red submarine into my back yard. It is sobering to think that could easily have experienced our own Big Bang Theory, up close and personal.

When it comes to tropical storm and hurricane awareness and preparation, I prefer to take a “belt and suspenders” approach. I do the same with my computer equipment and data. We have three computers in our home, two PCs and a MAC. My wife, who teaches elementary school, has all of her educational materials, lesson plans and personal information on her machine. I use a PC as my primary computer and travel with my MAC PowerBook G4 (a sexy, good looking laptop, that runs hot and slow) and I have all of my personal, financial and medical records on my PC as well as a nearly completed novel (and a host of essays) along with a professional lifetime’s worth of medical research. The good news is that I use online data backup on all three computers – it is provided by ElephantDrive and has been automated and worry-free. While I am still compulsive about my data and I back up critical files on removable media as well, that behavior is consistent with my “belt and suspenders” mentality. I sleep well knowing that no matter what might happen to the hardware, with ElephantDrive our files are always available from any Internet connected source to any computer.

It turned out that despite having a separate UPS/surge protector dedicated to each of the three computers and the presence of not only a whole home automated generator and a whole house surge protector, we had multiple power surges and transient power outages as tropical storm Fay’s wind and rain bands passed over our home. After the storm, both of the PCs started to act in bizarre ways. I spent much of this holiday weekend, debugging, optimizing the registries, removing spyware, tweaking my hard drives and reinstalling software on both of the PCs. Fortunately, both PCs seem to be functioning adequately again, for the moment. The PowerBook G4 is still running hot and slow but my data are secure on all three of the machines.

We were lucky to miss Hurricane Gustav when, during its Category 4 stage it passed over western Cuba on it way toward the Gulf coast. That said, it’s still a good thing that my hardware is repaired to a reasonably functional state and that all of the data are backed up at because, as I write these observations, Hurricane Hannah, Tropical Storm “Ike” and a tropical wave (likely to soon become Tropical Storm Josephine) are off the Florida Coast and all of them are heading in our general direction. If, God forbid, and despite my best efforts, lightning strikes my home or the roof flies off, all of our data will still be secure and accessible at

“Dr. J” – September 1, 2008

Categories: General