Key Disaster Preparedness Takeaways for Retailers from an Eventful Summer

Amid record-breaking heat waves this past summer, many communities faced some intense weather events that caused significant power outages. On Father’s Day, triple-digit temperatures triggered severe thunderstorms that left more than 450,000 people without power across the southern United States. In August, major summer storms caused outages for more than a million people on the East Coast and grounded nine major airports.

While summer temperatures might be finally dying down, hurricane season is still active. Recently, Hurricane Idalia caused 350,000 outages in Florida and Georgia, while Hurricane Ophelia brought damage that left at least 140,000 people without power across Virginia and parts of North Carolina.

For retailers relying on critical IT systems to support both in-store and ecommerce sales, outages from significant weather events can have a big impact on business. Having a smart backup power strategy can help prevent downtime and lost data as the threat of severe weather remains heightened.

Take Stock of the Inventory

Amid the digital transformation of retail, technologies such as SquareSpace have become more commonplace at the point of sale, while self-service kiosks and cashierless checkouts are now ubiquitous. Solutions like these and others will continue to transform the selling and buying experience, but the underpinning power infrastructure must be protected to ensure IT systems can stay up and running.

As digital IT infrastructure has evolved, the hardware and software tools available to protect these assets also have advanced to help retailers maintain their balance. Taking steps to implement an integrated backup power strategy can help retailers safeguard their operations even in the face of extreme events:

  • Start with the foundation. An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is key for any disaster preparedness strategy, serving as the critical bridge to generator power if there’s an outage. Retailers can leverage lithium-ion batteries, which have become more available and cost-effective for UPSs, to extend the life of their solution with a longer battery life and smaller footprint. UPSs also can be integrated with network cards for enhanced connectivity and improved cybersecurity when combined with disaster avoidance software.
  • Check in with infrastructure. Regardless of whether one operates as a standalone store or as part of a larger retail chain, it’s likely that there isn’t any on-site IT staff. This circumstance underscores the importance of distributed IT performance management software in assisting retailers in retaining authority over their power systems. Retail IT managers have the option to incorporate software applications alongside their power management equipment to facilitate a proactive approach to remote management. These software solutions grant the capability to gracefully shut down or reboot a ‘hung’ server or other equipment from a remote location in the event of a power outage caused by extreme heat.
  • Invest now to save later. Thanks to the advancement of remote monitoring services, IT teams can now monitor and analyze power trends over time. This gives retailers the ability to make smarter decisions about their equipment and proactively fix or replace devices rather than retroactively responding after an event causes downtime that halts the flow of business.

Reliable hardware components, such as surge protectors and power strips, also are important measures to ensure a well-rounded disaster avoidance strategy, especially in cases of storm-related power outages. Combining power management solutions with a wall-mount rack enclosure can save valuable floor space while simplifying and streamlining future hardware upgrades.

Power Retail Success

If the impact of Hurricane Idalia and Hurricane Ophelia are any indication, communities may face additional significant storm-related challenges this fall – and winter is right around the corner. Retailers should start strategically preparing now to avoid being caught off guard by Mother Nature’s wrath. By building an integrated backup power strategy combining the latest hardware and software advancements, retailers can have more confidence knowing they have the right reinforcements ready to protect valuable IT systems and data.

Ed Spears is a technical marketing manager in Eaton’s Critical Power and Digital Infrastructure Division in Raleigh, N.C. A 40-year veteran of the power-systems industry, Spears 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 [email protected].