Hurricane Season 2022 is underway, and with it comes the looming threat of outages and downtime for retailers. Forecasters are projecting an above-average storm season for the sixth consecutive year, with the first tropical storms forming and Hurricane Agatha already making landfall in May. As we head into the peak of the season, retailers should review their disaster avoidance strategies as they seek to protect critical equipment and prevent downtime.
The Impact of Downtime
Natural disasters are a threat to any retailer’s bottom line as downtime can severely hinder a store’s ability to drive revenue. According to the Uptime Institute’s 2022 Outage Analysis, more than 60% of outages reported in the time covered resulted in at least $100,000 in total losses, up from 39% in 2019. This will likely come as no surprise to many, as the COVID-19 pandemic led many retailers to adopt new digital strategies that made them heavily reliant on digital infrastructure and ecommerce.
Thankfully, as retailers have shifted to more digital strategies, the hardware and software tools to protect equipment have evolved to keep pace.
Address the Threat
Prevention and visibility are essential factors in achieving the always-on power retailers demand, especially with many retailers pushing data to distributed infrastructure at multiple locations. While both big box chains and small businesses face the same size and scope of natural disasters, each retailer should take a unique approach that fits their individual needs.
A disaster avoidance strategy that incorporates integrated power management technology should serve as retailers’ first line of defense against outages stemming from hurricanes and other disasters. Depending on the size of the retailer and number of stores it operates, such a system should include the following:
- Uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs): A UPS serves as the foundation of a power protection strategy, providing critical backup power and a bridge to generator power to ensure IT functions stay up and running in the event of an outage. With lithium-ion batteries now becoming more available and cost-effective in UPS technology, retailers can extend the life of their investments with longer battery life in a smaller footprint. And with integrated network cards, managers can benefit from enhanced connectivity and improved cybersecurity while integrating with disaster avoidance software and other connected devices.
- Disaster avoidance software: Many stores that are part of larger retail chains operate without on-site IT support staff. This makes disaster avoidance software important to maintain control over power infrastructure. Retailers should consider software that offers enhanced visibility and control, with the ability to gracefully shut down or reboot a ‘hung’ server or other equipment from a remote location in the instance of a disruptive power event.
- Remote monitoring and predictive analytics: Advancements in connectivity have increased expectations for secure, real-time access to retail system data. Remote monitoring services for power management devices can empower retailers to better understand equipment health and replace components before they fail. Additionally, retailers can use predictive analytics to understand power trends over time, using data to make better decisions and proactively fix or replace equipment rather than retroactively responding after an event results in downtime.
To avoid compromising customer data and privacy, retailers should make sure to incorporate cybersecurity safeguards as part of any decisions around procuring power management equipment, especially as ransomware has grown in prominence and impact. It is important to seek out technologies certified to meet cybersecurity standards (such as UL 2900-1 and IEC 62443-4-2) to help protect UPSs against potential attacks that could propagate into IT networks.
Reliable surge protectors and power strips are also important components of a well-rounded strategy to safeguard equipment. Additionally, combining power management equipment with a wall mount rack enclosure can help retailers save valuable space in their stores while simplifying and streamlining future hardware upgrades.
Protect the Bottom Line
As hurricane season enters its peak months, retailers can use a robust power protection strategy to bolster their disaster avoidance capabilities. Just as hurricane forecasters consider each named storm unique, retail IT departments should deploy power management equipment in a way that fits their unique needs. This can help retailers create resiliency in their infrastructure and enable them to continue driving revenue while meeting the needs of the customers they serve.
Ed Spears is a Technical Marketing Manager in Eaton’s Critical Power & Digital Infrastructure Division in Raleigh, N.C. A 40-year veteran of the power-systems industry, he has experience in UPS systems testing, sales, applications engineering and training — as well as working in power-quality engineering and marketing for telecommunications, data centers, cable television and broadband public networks. He can be reached at EdSpears@Eaton.com.