Hurricane Ian, a Category 5 Storm
We have become accustomed to hearing about natural disasters on a regular basis. And some of us have had the unfortunate experience of living through one or more of these events. The pace and magnitude at which we’re experiencing natural disasters has caused many to become more vigilant about disaster preparedness; asking themselves, “What is my disaster plan for my family, myself, my community, or my company?” When it comes to a company’s preparedness, we can take lessons from one of MetTel’s customers as they navigated their way through Hurricane Ian.
Tropical Storm Ian attained hurricane strength on September 26, 2022. It struck western Cuba the following day as a category 3 hurricane with winds as high as 125 mph. As Hurricane Ian continued its path toward Florida, it strengthened to a category 5 storm. On September 28, Hurricane Ian struck the west coast of Florida with 155 mph winds. It was catastrophic. The entire region along its path from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean experienced intense flooding as the storm dropped more than 20 inches of rain over the course of many hours. Hurricane Ian then exited Florida off the east coast as a tropical storm with peak winds around 70 mph during the late morning hours of September 29.
In the end, Hurricane Ian was responsible for significant loss of life, a massive and long-lasting disruption to the region, and an estimated $112.9 billion in damages. Approximately 2.7 million people lost power in Florida. In addition, 5,000 homes were destroyed and 30,000 damaged, leaving many people displaced and needing help.
Planning for the Worst
Our customer is an equipment rental company with an integrated global network of more than a thousand locations. They serve homeowners, construction and industrial customers, utilities, municipalities, and others, delivering a vast array of industrial equipment, such as trucks, aerial work platforms, counterbalance forklifts, reach forklifts, earth movers, compressors, and large generators; and homeowner equipment, such as hand tools, lawn and landscape equipment, and small generators. Many of these are critical items for first responders that help communities survive and recover from disasters – provided their own network stays up and running.
Having suffered through many major storms, our customer estimated that over half of their locations would be without network services post-storm (even with significant pre-storm prep). In previous years, they prepared emergency “branch-in-a-box” kits for all their locations and used them for weeks, and in some cases months, following a storm or some other disruption. This is a well-prepared company, and they were ready for Hurricane Ian.
A Surprise Boost from Their Network
More than a year before Hurricane Ian, our customer decided to replace their MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) network with Managed SD-WAN (Software Defined Wide Area Network). Ironically, business continuity wasn’t the original reason they sought to phase out their dated MPLS network, which had previously been cobbled together through a series of mergers and acquisitions. The key drivers were to provide each branch with greater bandwidth; standardize network performance; enhance security; and take advantage of new, modern network features and capabilities. In addition to accomplishing these goals, the significant savings generated by replacing an MPLS network with SD-WAN helped to fund the new network.
The new SD-WAN network design also gave them network resilience, which was pivotal during Hurricane Ian. As discussed earlier, our customer was as prepared as possible for the category 5 storm with their emergency network kits. Despite the devastation and havoc that Hurricane Ian wrought, their network never went down! This was the first time in their history that 100% of their locations were operational as soon as power was restored, or temporary power was put in place. They never needed to deploy an emergency kit. The built-in redundancy they gained with MetTel’s SD-WAN allowed them to restore business operations at their locations and was pivotal in their ability to respond quickly to support local recovery efforts and dispatch critical equipment where and when it was needed across the region. This helped our customer to live up to their reputation that they will be there for their customers when they need them most.
Maintaining Network Connectivity During a Crisis
With the addition of MetTel’s Managed SD-WAN, the strength and resilience of our customer’s network makes them even more prepared to tackle whatever comes their way, from storms to pandemics. In addition to offering more bandwidth and integrated security, SD-WAN provides ubiquitous coverage, continuous application performance monitoring, and intelligent automation, which are important capabilities to have during a crisis. The result is business continuity.
As we continue to navigate through crises and natural disasters that seem to be growing in number and intensity, our customer’s Hurricane Ian experience shows us how urgent it is to maintain network connectivity. By being operational, they were able to deliver critical equipment to those in need.
Investing in a robust disaster preparedness strategy with a reliable network will help a company achieve the agility and resilience necessary to function and thrive in an unpredictable world. If you have any questions about Managed SD-WAN or disaster preparedness for your network, please contact us.