Information Technology braces for spring thunderstorms

The month of March is so well known for its inclement weather that it has been dubbed “Weather Awareness Month.” Thunderstorms can do more damage than ruining picnic plans and sporting events, however. They can also be harmful to your computer.Will Hoffert of Tech’s Information Technology Services department agrees.

“Usually if lightning strikes or water damage occurs, it can be detrimental to your computer.”

Hoffert, the assistant academic computing supports manager at ITS, said that the best way to protect your computer from storm damage is to disconnect its power source. Internet cords and modems should also be unplugged.

Tech has seen firsthand the repercussions that thunderstorms can have on computers. Last year, Derryberry Hall was struck by lightning. When lightning hits a power cord, it overflows the circuits of the connected computers, causing a meltdown. In some cases, this can cause internal fires or melted circuit boards. In the case of Derryberry Hall, only the network cards of the computers were damaged and were able to be replaced.

Tech Village has also been affected by inclement weather. According to Hoffert, Tech Village is often subjected to “brownouts.” These are partial power outages that only cut electricity off for a short amount of time. However, they can still be damaging to computers and other devices. Even ResNet could be affected by thunderstorms, Hoffert says, since a lot of its cables run underground.

Residents of dorm buildings are less likely to experience these effects of bad weather. They are more likely to be affected by construction work or other factors, according to Hoffert.

“We try to offer labs on campus for that purpose,” Hoffert said.

There are measures that students can take to protect their computers from potential inclement weather damage. Surge protectors offer some measure of protection. Also, for desktop computers, Hoffert recommends investing in battery backup. This protects against power glitches such as brownouts. “A lot of computers on campus we have purchased with battery backup,” Hoffert said.

Tech is, with the help of ResLife, in the process of updating its equipment to be more prepared for such instances.

If precautions are not taken and your computer is affected by a thunderstorm, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all hope is lost. “Usually it doesn’t mean your data is gone,” Hoffert said. “Talk to a computer technician. A lot of companies like Dell offer protection.” In some instances, as was the case at Derryberry Hall, only a part of the computer has been damaged and can be replaced. Some companies will even replace your entire computer if necessary.