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By Damien Garvey, Technical Account Manager at Backup-Technology
August 14, 2012

Backup-Technology Online Data Backup Expert Tips: Solar Storm Alert – Is Your Data Protected?

Experts from around the world are on alert and are monitoring the sun closely as it reaches a peak in its ten year activity cycle. Because of the increased activity, the likelihood of earth being hit by a solar storm in the fore coming months has increased.

Mike Hapgood, a space weather specialist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory stated, “Governments are taking it very seriously. These things may be very rare but when they happen, the consequences can be catastrophic.”

Although there is only a 12% chance of earth being hit by a solar storm each decade, it has been over 150 years since earth last suffered from a major solar storm and therefore some would say that we are due to bit hit by one. The last major solar storm occurred in 1859 and is known as the Carrington Event. This resulted in the largest ever known solar flare being produced. It was reported that an aurorae borealis (Northern Lights) was witnessed around the world but was spectacularly evident over the Caribbean.

In more recent times, a solar storm on a much smaller scale was blamed for damaging the power network in Quebec, Canada in 1989. This left thousands of people living in the city without electricity for nine hours.

A solar storm occurs when magnetically charged plasma is thrown out from the sun. This sends millions of tonnes of gas through space, which can reach earth in just over a day. Available warning time is therefore very short. If this gas hits earth, geomagnetic storms are triggered. This can result in significant damage to national power grids being caused as some of the transformers will melt. There is the potential that satellites will be either damaged or destroyed and radio communications may be disrupted.

If a solar storm does hit earth, the resulting consequences could be potentially very severe. As it has been so long since a solar storm last hit earth, it is impossible to contemplate the potential devastation that may well be caused due to technological advances that have been made and the ever increasing reliance we have on them.

Therefore, from a business point of view, the importance of having an adequate data backup solution and disaster recovery solution in place is becoming more important. If a natural disaster such as a solar storm does hit earth, it is impossible to know which areas in the world will be affected and therefore it is very important that we act proactively and not reactively to ensure the consequences are not too severe.

People may think that they will never suffer from such an event and this may end up being true but surely having the peace of mind, knowing that if your business suffered from any kind of disaster, the impact will be significantly reduced. An event such as a solar storm hitting earth is very rare but the need to ensure that your data is fully protected is becoming more important as we are set to suffer from more adverse weather conditions which may pose different problems for businesses that they have never experienced before.

Lord Chris Smith, the Chairman of the Environment Agency, stated, “The weather extremes which we’ve seen this year – with widespread floods almost immediately following a long term drought – have brought the importance of resilience into sharp focus. Climate change science tells us that these are the sort of weather patterns we are going to have to get used to, so taking action today to prepare and adapt our homes, businesses, and infrastructure is vital.”

Are you worried about solar storms? Should we all be?

About the Author: Damien Garvey is a Technical Account Manager at Backup-Technology, an Asigra powered cloud backup and disaster recovery solutions provider.

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