The threat severe weather poses for computer hardware lingers throughout the summer. 

According to the 2021 Farmers’ Almanac extended forecast, this summer was expected to be stormy, with a greater than average frequency of thunderstorms for a large portion of the country.  While typically the hottest weather is expected in late July or early August, this year’s summer heat could peak in late August into early September, according to the Almanac.  Higher daytime temperatures increase the likelihood of thunderstorms.

The Almanac 2021 hurricane outlook forecasts a late August hurricane threat along the Gulf Coast and predicts a hurricane could also hit South Florida in October.  Although hurricanes can form anytime, hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.   On a bright note, the 2021 hurricane season is expected to “fall far short of the intensity of the 2020 hurricane season,” according to the Almanac.

A thunderstorm, hurricane or other severe weather event can damage computer hardware and impose unexpected expense and inconvenience on a business.  ScrapWare Corp., a software provider for the scrap metal recycling industry, has seen customers fall victim to this seasonal threat with damaged hardware from electrical storms. 

ScrapWare offers the following ten tips for avoiding or mitigating storm hardware damage.

  • Electrical storms (also known as thunderstorms) are more likely to occur in summer and at night.  The higher temperatures of summer days set the conditions for lightning and precipitation when temperatures fall after the sun goes down.  According to National Geographic, each bolt of lightning can contain up to one billion volts of electricity, having the potential for tremendous damage.  Lightning storms can cause both electrical surges and power outages which interrupt your power supply.  To best avoid overnight storm damage to your hardware, check the weather forecast before closing to see if any precautions should be taken overnight.
  • If an overnight lightning storm appears imminent, unplug your PC and related hardware like printers, scale indicators, cameras, ATMs and cash dispensers and anti-theft hardware like signature and thumbprint capture pads.  In addition to powering down your PC and unplugging it from the wall, also disconnect your telephone lines from the wall.  This is because the most vulnerable route for a voltage spike is through your phone line.
  • Invest in high quality surge protectors and UPS devices.  Make sure they are used on all of your PC and related hardware.  Do not use unprotected power strips which do not safeguard the connected equipment from power surges or lightning strikes.  A UPS (uninterruptible power supply) is a surge protector and voltage regulator with a backup battery.  It is important that the UPS be sized properly to make sure it can fully power all the connected equipment.
  • As a precaution, examine how your job site is cabled—how is power moved around your yard? Do you have proper grounding for your electrical system? Is it code approved?  Sometimes an electrical inspection is a good investment.
  • Make sure storm damage to computers is covered by insurance.  If it is damaged or destroyed in a storm you can file a claim for replacement and sometimes even to compensate for data loss. 
  • Back up your data every day.  If you use a cloud-based software product, this happens automatically.  ScrapWare customers have the option of using an on-premises system or a product which runs from the cloud.  With the cloud product, these backups occur daily automatically, as data is all safely stored in the cloud and backed up at multiple data centers.
  • While not an electrical storm, ScrapWare customers have been hit by another weather disaster–hurricanes.  If it looks like your operation is going to fall in the path of a hurricane, the best thing to do is physically move your PC hardware to a safer location if possible.

Despite the best planning and precautions, accidents do sometimes happen.  So, if you have been hit by an electrical storm, here’s what can be done:

  • With the price of PCs today, if yours has been damaged, it may be more economical to replace the PC than to diagnose the exact problem repair it.  When a ScrapWare customer has damaged equipment, ScrapWare works with that customer to recommend what replacement hardware would be most suitable.
  • Once your equipment is replaced, your course of action depends on how you store your data.  If you use cloud-based software like ScrapWare, the software is simply and quickly reinstalled on your PC and you can resume processing transactions.  You have immediate access to your data at that time.   The software is reloaded on all the related equipment like the cameras, scales and signature and thumbprint capture pads. 
  • If you use an on-premises software system, your data must be restored from your back up source.  This might involve restoring from offsite or onsite backups like a CD or hard drive.   Remember to contact your insurance company to see if you can recover any of these costs.   

So while enjoying the summer, if it looks like there could be a lightning strike, here is a quote to remind you to take the most important precaution:

“Storm in the evening forecast? Remember to unplug fast!”  

ScrapWare Corp., of Rockville, MD, has been providing software to the scrap metal recycling industry for over 30 years.  ScrapWare uses an Oracle database to provide a cloud-based software solution to manage all aspects of a recycling business.  With numerous modules, extensive technical support, remote installation and online training, ScrapWare helps recycling companies with compliance, efficiency and profitability.   Check out ScrapWare’s website, read the user testimonials, and see its offerings for your recycling software solution.