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From a cybersecurity standpoint, cold and snow don’t make the top 10 list of concerns. Unless snowflakes and sleet pellets become WiFi-connected, winter weather poses little threat.

Still, the onset of winter requires some basic preparation for MSPs. Just like you take time to “winterize” your house before frigid temperatures arrive, you should “winterize” your client’s cybersecurity regimen.

Winterize your cybersecurity

I reached out to Anthony Shaw, an IT professional in Fairbanks, Alaska, because he’s experienced in dealing with the effects that harsh winters have on computer equipment. Here is what he had to say about winter and computer equipment:

“Most IT stuff likes to run hot, so storing it in the cold has its benefits,” acknowledges Shaw. He asks why more major tech companies don’t invest in data centers in Alaska to take advantage of the naturally cold climate and save a fortune on cooling systems needed in the Lower 48. Good point — laptops and servers that need constant cooling in the summer are less vulnerable in the winter.

“We do need to pay special attention to our humidity and data center cooling, as the cold can make the humidity fluctuate,” admits Shaw.

Shaw adds that in Alaska, HVAC systems are constructed with this stuff in mind. Now that isn’t so often the case, during the brutal cold snap, a humidifier should be on the list for clients that have especially sensitive systems.

According to Shaw, frigid temperatures are part of the calculus when determining how the equipment will hold up. That wouldn’t be the case if Missouri gets a sub-zero cold wave.

“We do almost all the cold weather preparation upfront, and make sure our equipment is rated to run in the environment before we install it,” details Shaw.

The key when operating your system in frigid called weather is just staying on top of everything. Shaw emphasizes, “It’s all about monitoring.”

With Shaw’s comments in mind, here are some tips we’ve compiled to keep your clients’ systems running smoothly even if the polar vortex comes your way.

Winterize your service vehicles

A minor security breach in a client’s network can become a significant problem, if you are unable to make a service call. Now is the time to make sure car batteries and tires are in working order.

It’s easy to put this off while focusing on your day-to-day work, but the first time a snowstorm hits and you find yourself stuck, you’ll find yourself wishing you had done more to prepare. That also includes basics like having a snow shovel in your service vehicles and up-to-date roadside assistance.

Remove equipment from service vehicles

Keeping diagnostic equipment locked in your vehicle is convenient and saves the hassle of carting stuff in and out. But just like you wouldn’t leave equipment baking in a hot car, you shouldn’t leave it to freeze either. Removing a frozen laptop from your service vehicle and into a toasty room temperature climate can cause condensation to form. This moisture can then pose a critical danger to processors and internal drives.

To avoid this, allow electronic equipment to sit at room temperature for an hour before powering on. Computer boards expand and contract with temperatures, so subjecting them to extremes can cause wear that may not be worth the convenience of leaving them in your vehicle. If a client experiences a security breach and you can’t diagnose and fix it because of frozen equipment, a minor problem can snowball.

Check outdoor security cameras and sensors

Some cameras are specially designed to withstand the extreme cold. If your client’s cameras are not of that variety, you need to check them frequently. According to Shaw, the most crucial aspects of cameras is just checking to make sure they are clear. You don’t want frost or snow obscuring what the cameras are supposed to be watching.

Most outdoor industrial sensors are good down to -10 degrees. Still, if a cold snap is supposed to be deeper than that, then you’ll need to check for malfunctioning sensors, and perhaps even disengage and bring inside if the conditions are slated to be too severe.

Have a client weather back-up plan in place

If an especially severe and prolonged polar vortex is scheduled to arrive, analyze which clients’ systems are most sensitive to the cold and then develop a plan of action. What if the power went out for a prolonged time?

Drawing up plans ahead of time to transfer sensitive equipment to a warmer location will save you and your client frustration. Extreme weather back-up plans should be in place for all seasons. If all else fails, don’t take it to heart. It’ll be spring before you know it.

Photo: Standret / Shutterstock

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Kevin Williams

Posted by Kevin Williams

Kevin Williams is a journalist based in Ohio. Williams has written for a variety of publications including the Washington Post, New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, National Geographic and others. He first wrote about the online world in its nascent stages for the now defunct “Online Access” Magazine in the mid-90s.

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