Thursday, May 29, 2014

The ende of dayes

Are you prepared for the end of days? Are you prepared for the end of the world? How will you or your business survive in a post-apocalyptic world? No, I'm not talking about a plague or pestilence nor a hoard of roaming zombies nor even invasion by Islamist forces nor even of an invasion by Communists. I'm talking about something much simpler than that - something over which the puny human race has absolutely no control and which has happened many times over the years before technology.

The dreaded solar flare! Twenty years ago, a solar flare wiped out most of Canada's power grid, sending the country back into the dark ages. Fortunately, twenty years ago so many systems were still manual that damage was minimal. Today if the same happened, the results could be nothing short of apocalyptic.

A solar flare could wipe out all radio and electrical operations for months or years to come. Unprotected electronics would be totally destroyed. Magnetic media could easily be irretrievably corrupted. All those precious files - photos, documents, plans, software - all gone in the blink of an eye. Modern business taken into the stone age. How many credit card transactions can be processed or debit card transactions? None - the card swipers would all be dead and the magnetic stripes on the cards, gone. We would be plunged into a cash only economy.

Most transport would be inoperable. Cars with electronic ignition would be unusable until a new ignition system was installed. Fuel pumps would be inoperable as the electrics would be fried. The power grid would be down for weeks or months. Microwaves even if they could get power would be unusable as the electrics would be fried. Anything with power running through it, whether it was switched on or was in standby would be fried. Wristwatches that were not old-school wind-up would be fried. Absolutely nothing electrical would work for weeks on end.

The National Guard would be called out on a piecemeal basis to provide food and shelter for those unable to feed themselves or to get to their homes. Radio communications would be dead for the duration of the storm and any radios with batteries in them at the time of the storm would be destroyed. The telephone system would be destroyed. Starbucks, Waffle House, Wendy's, McDonalds would all be history. Food in freezers would rapidly begin to spoil.

After the power comes back on and the computers are replaced, what about the data? All gone, erased by the solar flare as would be the software. There is a way, however, to mitigate the disaster. In fact, there are two ways. The first is purely functional which is to have a backup manual system. It might sound far fetched for a solar flare to wreak such devastation but a simple catastrophe could wipe out power to an entire city or a terrorist incident with a nuclear device could wipe out magnetic data with an electromagnetic pulse. Even if radiation was contained (which is possible) the EMP could wipe out data in a whole hemisphere. The data could be saved with a weekly backup to optical media. Yes - optical media is slow but it does survive EMP because it's optical and not magnetic. The new flash drives - unproven technology that has only been around for a short while. Who knows how sunspot activity will affect it.

How many will die without power? How many businesses will be killed without power?

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