May 14, 2024
Safeguarding IT Service Continuity Amid The Storm
Managed Services,

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Service Continuity Is About Being Prepared For Anything

Steve Moreton

As the skies were aglow last weekend, CJC were on standby in case of client system failures from a modern-day Carrington-style event. Magnetic storms as intense as the one during the weekend put IT infrastructures under pressure, especially as the Earth’s ionosphere was heated, and this article provides insight into:

  1. The Risk of Magnetic Storms.
  2. Costs: Downtime vs. Preventive.
  3. Do Businesses Have Options?

Editor: Antony Fung, Marketing Manager at CJC.


Many were treated to breathtaking views of the Northern Lights over the weekend, amid what has been classed as a G5 geomagnetic storm, however, the operations team at CJC have had their eye glued to their monitors. As a trusted and at times critical IT-managed service provider with stringent uptime client service level agreements (SLAs), client business continuity is paramount our team must be wary of any potential risks to service continuity. A case in point is the 1859 Carrington Event where a huge geomagnetic storm caused telegraph communications to fail globally and in some cases, gave their users electric shocks.

The Risk Of Magnetic Storms

Unlike manmade processes like the EU’s DORA and CJC’s ever-evolving cybersecurity defenses, nature-born events – especially on a cosmic scale – are less predictable and can easily catch business continuity plans off-guard like the outbreak of COVID-19. Compared to 1859 when electricity was relatively new, an intense geomagnetic storm like the Carrington Event potentially has far-reaching impacts on our modern tech-based infrastructure, which is sensitive to rapid magnetic field variations produced during magnetic storms. These include:


These storms heat and distort density in the Earth’s ionosphere and long-range communications could become difficult, degraded, or even impossible. Take satellites, which are critical for global communication networks for example, the radiation of severe space weather could take satellites offline or damage them permanently. In the worst-case scenario, an ionospheric expansion may increase satellite drag, complicating the ability to maintain and control their orbital. Less extreme scenarios could see degraded functionality, for example, the radio signal’s path to and from a satellite for GPS systems being unintentionally modified due to ionosphere changes that result in errors for the positioning information of land, sea, or air travel.

Power Grids

On the ground, a Carrington-like event could jeopardise power grids by producing massive electrical currents and possibly causing widespread blackouts or voltage control issues. During the last G5 storm in 2003, Sweden experienced power outages and South Africa saw transformers becoming damaged.

Data Centres and Networking

Data centres and servers, the backbone of modern society are also vulnerable to the effects of geomagnetic storms. The induced electrical currents produced by the geomagnetic storms could damage hardware and networking equipment, impacting interconnected data centres and cloud providers. Changes in the ionosphere can also disrupt networking by blocking or degrading radio transmissions passing through the atmosphere, affecting critical technology across industries and shortwave transmissions utilised by ships, aircraft, emergency management agencies, and the military. Another risk is prolonged power outages will likely outlast data centre fuel-storage capacities for contingency power supplies.

Costs: Downtime vs. Preventive

The potential costs of geomagnetic storm-associated downtime are as breathtaking as the glowing skies. Intense storms that disrupt power grids have a knock-on effect on other sectors and services, hindering emergency service capabilities. A 2017 study estimated that in a worst-case scenario, 66% of the US population would be affected, with the economic loss being $41.5 Billion – per day. A 2011 US government report outlined various preventive measures to guard against geomagnetic storms, like hardening infrastructure and mitigation processes. Still, costs were deemed unjustified due to the low occurrence probability, leaving most infrastructure vulnerable to worst-case scenarios.

Do Businesses Have Options?

Fortunately, the short answer is yes. The best recommendation is to keep equipment off during the storm, however, the importance of contingency planning means discussing and being aware of the potential risks, active monitoring, and planning as our reliance on digital infrastructure grows. Businesses could protect themselves from Carrington-like storms, these steps include:

  1. Infrastructure Hardening – Firms could invest in surge-proof resilient systems and transformers that can withstand such electrical currents.
  2. Shutdown Procedures – In the event of a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), firms usually have a few days to ensure electronics are not operating when CME contacts Earth. This may seem expensive, but the alternative is a complete loss of infrastructure – the worst-case scenario.
  3. Invest in Redundancies – backup system and power supplies to ensure continuity of operations.
  4. Insurance – Ensuring business insurance policies cover damages caused by geomagnetic storms.

Again, this is all academic and the impact theorised worst-case scenario.  The current solar activity does not appear to be a cause for concern, however, risk analysis and contingency planning are part of our ISO 27001-aligned standards.

CJC’s teams are trained to react swiftly to reduce impacts and notify clients. Our teams have ensured processes are detailed in a non-electronic format with physical backups of critical data off-site and off-technology. The 24/7 operations team can implement emergency procedures, and our customers can rest assured knowing our contingency and risk planning covers both ordinary and extraordinary events.

About CJC:

CJC is the leading market data technology consultancy and service provider for global financial markets. CJC provides multi-award-winning consultancy, managed services, cloud solutions, observability, and professional commercial management services for mission-critical market data systems. CJC is vendor-neutral and ISO 27001 certified, enabling CJC’s partners the freedom to focus on their core business.

For more information, contact us or:

Email: [email protected]
Tel: +44(0) 203 328 7600

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