Should You Be Concerned About Space Weather? How to Protect Your Business

Should You Be Concerned About Space Weather? How to Protect Your Business

Exploring the Impact of Solar Activity on Technology and Business Operations, and Practical Steps to Safeguard Against Potential Disruptions

When we think about threats to our company’s security and operations, we often focus on cyber threats, natural disasters, or even pandemics. However, there’s another significant risk that many overlook: space weather. Yes, the sun’s activity can profoundly impact our technological infrastructure, and understanding space weather can help us mitigate potential disruptions. Here’s why you should pay attention to space weather and how to prepare your business for its effects.

What is Space Weather?

Space weather refers to the environmental conditions in space, influenced by the sun and the solar wind. The most significant events include solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). These phenomena can release massive amounts of energy and charged particles into space, which can reach Earth and interact with our planet’s magnetic field, causing geomagnetic storms.

Why Should You Care?

Geomagnetic storms can have several adverse effects on technology, including:

  • Power Grid Failures: Geomagnetically induced currents can overload power grids, causing widespread blackouts.
  • Satellite Disruptions: Solar storms can damage satellites, affecting GPS navigation, communications, and weather forecasting.
  • Communication Interruptions: High-frequency radio communications and long-range aviation can be significantly disrupted.
  • Data Corruption: High-energy particles can corrupt data stored in electronic devices and systems.

Historical Examples

The Carrington Event (1859)

The Carrington Event is the most powerful geomagnetic storm on record. On September 1, 1859, British astronomer Richard Carrington observed a massive solar flare and coronal mass ejection (CME) in real time, making him the first person to witness such an event.

Just hours later, the CME hit Earth, causing widespread havoc. Telegraph systems all over the world failed, and operators even reported sparks, electric shocks, and paper catching fire from the induced currents. Remarkably, some telegraphs continued to operate even after being disconnected from their power supplies due to induced currents from the geomagnetic storm.

A 2013 study estimated that a solar storm of Carrington magnitude today could result in up to $2.6 trillion in damages in the U.S. alone, affecting power grids, satellite communications, and more.

Quebec Blackout (1989)

In March 1989, a geomagnetic storm caused by a CME led to a nine-hour blackout in Quebec, Canada. The storm induced currents in the power grid, causing transformers to fail and leaving millions without electricity. This event highlighted the vulnerability of modern power grids to space weather.

Halloween Storms (2003)

The Halloween storms of October 2003 were a series of intense solar storms that caused widespread technological disruptions. These storms affected satellite communications, GPS signals, and even caused power outages in parts of Sweden. The storms also damaged several satellites and increased the radiation exposure for astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

Likelihood of Space Weather Events

While small disruptions caused by solar activity are relatively common, major events like the Carrington Event are less so but still possible. Currently, the sun is at its solar maximum, a period of increased solar activity, which is expected to continue into next year. This increases the likelihood of solar storms and underscores the importance of being prepared.

What If We Faced a Superstorm?

A solar storm much worse than the Carrington Event, often referred to as a “superstorm,” could have catastrophic consequences. Such an event could potentially:

  • Disable power grids worldwide, causing prolonged blackouts.
  • Disrupt global communications systems, including satellite, GPS, and radio networks.
  • Damage electronic devices on a massive scale due to induced electrical currents.

While such superstorms are rare, the potential impact could be devastating. Preparation for an event of this magnitude involves not just shielding and backup strategies, but also:

  • Developing comprehensive disaster recovery plans that include contingencies for extended power and communication outages.
  • Investing in infrastructure that is inherently resistant to geomagnetic disturbances.
  • Collaborating with industry partners and agencies to create a coordinated response plan.

Practical Steps for Businesses

Given the potential impacts, here are some practical steps your business can take to prepare for and mitigate the effects of space weather.

1. Stay Informed

Subscribe to space weather monitoring services like the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) provided by NOAA, and These services offer alerts and forecasts about solar activity, giving you a heads-up on potential disruptions.

2. Plan Around Space Weather

When significant solar activity is forecasted, consider adjusting your business operations:

  • Schedule Major Releases Wisely: Avoid scheduling major software releases, updates, or critical operations on days when a solar storm is predicted. This can prevent potential issues from data corruption or communication failures.
  • Remote Work Considerations: If you have remote workers, particularly in areas prone to connectivity issues, be prepared for possible communication disruptions. Have alternative communication plans in place and set expectations with your team.

3. Enhance Infrastructure Resilience

For businesses looking to go the extra mile, consider investing in physical infrastructure improvements:

  • Grounding: Ensure all your electrical systems are properly grounded to dissipate geomagnetically induced currents. This can prevent damage to your equipment and reduce the risk of fire.
  • Surge Protection: Install robust surge protectors to shield your systems from voltage spikes caused by geomagnetic activity.
  • Shielding: Investing in quality surge protectors is a good start, but for more comprehensive protection, consider professional shielding solutions:
    • Faraday Cages: Commercially available Faraday cages or enclosures can protect critical equipment from electromagnetic pulses. These are designed to block external electric fields and can be used for sensitive servers or communication equipment.
    • Shielded Cabinets: These are specially designed cabinets that offer high-level protection for your electronics. They can be a more permanent and professional solution compared to DIY options.

Backup Solutions: Big and Small

Big Cloud Providers

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS): AWS offers services like AWS Backup and Amazon S3 Glacier that provide geo-redundant storage and high durability, protecting your data across multiple locations.
  • Microsoft Azure: With services like Azure Backup and Azure Site Recovery, your data is encrypted and replicated across different regions, reducing the risk of loss during a solar event.
  • Google Cloud Platform (GCP): GCP’s multi-regional storage options distribute data across several locations, ensuring high availability and protection against regional disruptions.

Alternatives to Big Cloud Providers

If you’re hesitant to trust big cloud providers, consider these alternatives:

  • Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage: Backblaze offers an affordable, reliable option with high durability and secure storage solutions, perfect for small to medium-sized businesses.
  • Iron Mountain Data Centers: Known for robust physical security and compliance, Iron Mountain offers shielded off-site storage that’s well-protected from environmental threats, including geomagnetic storms.

DIY Backup Solutions

On a tight budget? Here are some DIY solutions:

  • External Hard Drives: Regularly back up your data to external hard drives and store them in a shielded container, like a homemade Faraday cage using aluminum foil or magnetic shielding cloths. Layer the foil or cloths, separated by non-conducting materials like plastic or PVC, to improve the shielding effectiveness against electromagnetic interference.
  • Local NAS Systems: Network Attached Storage (NAS) systems can be an affordable way to keep backups on-site. Just ensure they’re well-protected with surge protectors and, if possible, shielded from electromagnetic interference.
  • Non-Electronic Formats: Store critical data on non-electronic formats like CD, DVD, or M-DISC. These formats are less susceptible to electromagnetic interference and can serve as reliable long-term storage options. However, remember that the lifespan of optical media is limited, and they will need to be rotated periodically to ensure data integrity. Regularly check and refresh these media to avoid data loss.
  • Printed Documents and Photos: Print and securely store important documents and photos. Physical copies provide a tangible backup that is not affected by electromagnetic events. Ensure these are kept in a safe, dry place, preferably in a fireproof and waterproof container.

4. Disaster Recovery Planning

Incorporate space weather events into your disaster recovery and business continuity plans:

  • Regular Backups: Ensure that your data is regularly backed up to off-site locations or cloud services with redundant storage across different geographic areas.
  • Redundant Systems: Have backup communication systems in place, such as satellite phones or alternate internet connections, to maintain operations during outages.
  • Regular Drills: Conduct regular disaster recovery drills to prepare your team for quick and efficient responses to space weather-related disruptions.

A Note to Small Businesses

You might think that space weather is only a concern for large corporations with vast infrastructures, but small businesses can be equally affected. Power outages, communication disruptions, and data loss can hit small businesses hard. The good news is that preparing for space weather doesn’t have to break the bank:

  • Cost-Effective Backups: Use cloud services for regular backups. Many providers offer affordable plans tailored to small businesses.
  • Basic Surge Protection: Invest in quality surge protectors for your critical equipment. These are relatively inexpensive and can prevent costly damage.
  • Stay Informed for Free: Leverage free resources like NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center to stay updated on solar activity.

Important Considerations for Educational Institutions

Educational institutions, especially K-12 schools, also need to be aware of space weather risks. Schools increasingly rely on technology for teaching, communication, and administration. A geomagnetic storm could disrupt online learning, damage computer systems, and hinder communication with parents and students. Here are some steps schools can take to prepare:

  • Backup Plans for Remote Learning: Ensure that online learning platforms are backed up and that teachers have alternative ways to deliver lessons, such as offline materials or local network solutions.
  • Communication Strategies: Have multiple communication channels in place. If primary systems fail, use local radio stations, SMS, or other means to keep parents and staff informed.
  • Protect Equipment: Use surge protectors for all critical equipment and consider simple shielding solutions to protect sensitive electronics.


While space weather might seem like an out-of-this-world concern, its impact on our technologically dependent world is very real. By staying informed and taking proactive steps, you can protect your business from the potential disruptions caused by solar storms. From scheduling operations around solar activity to enhancing your infrastructure, being prepared for space weather is not just good practice—it’s a critical component of modern business resilience.

Bringing It All Together

Understanding and preparing for space weather is an important aspect of safeguarding your business. Assessing the likelihood and potential impact of solar storms should be part of your threat modeling process. Whether you decide this is a major risk or just something to be aware of and plan for, being prepared can make a significant difference.

By integrating space weather awareness into your overall security strategy, you can better safeguard your organization against this often-overlooked risk.

For those seeking guidance on implementing these measures, our team is here to help. We offer advice on a range of topics, from space weather to cybersecurity, ensuring your operations remain resilient and secure. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can assist with vulnerability management, penetration testing, or other security needs, feel free to reach out. Our team is ready to help you build a robust strategy to protect your organization from all kinds of threats. Contact us by filling out the form below for a consultation.

Staying prepared today means your business or school can continue to thrive tomorrow, no matter what challenges arise.