Both Jersey and Guernsey have long been regarded as safe havens for operations based in areas where natural disasters are relatively frequent.
Irma has claimed a minimum of 20 lives, including at least four in the British Virgin Islands and one each on Anguilla and Barbuda, and left thousands of people homeless.
A number of Jersey-headquartered law and finance companies have offices in the British Virgin Islands and several posted website messages stating that those offices have been temporarily closed, including Estera, Bedell Cristin, Mourant Ozannes, JTC, Carey Olsen and Collas Crill.
Ross Gavey, head of data centre sales at Sure, said that eight of the firm’s clients had invoked their business continuity plans since the start of the hurricane, the majority based in the Caribbean but having backed up their data in the Channel Islands.
‘From their point of view, Jersey and Guernsey and the Isle of Man have stable governments, as well as being offshore.
‘We have a partnership with eShore in Cayman and we monitored the situation ahead of the hurricane and contacted some clients to see if they wanted to spin up some of their data, just in case,’ he said.
‘We run a 24/7 operation in both islands, so we are always physically here, but we did up the manpower for the evening shift just in case there were requests from multiple clients.’
Mr Gavey said that two firms in particular had physically relocated their operations, one to London and one to Jersey, although he was not able to name them for confidentiality reasons.
‘Companies that have their disaster recovery solutions with us will have their data replicated in Jersey and/or Guernsey,’ he explained.
‘We have a trial run every quarter to check server information and anything required for day to day operations.’
However, the extent of preparation needed some years ago, when suites of vacant offices were kept empty in readiness for mass relocation, is no longer appropriate in an era when many routinely work remotely.
‘There is a legal requirement in financial services businesses to have a disaster recovery solution in place, to give access to offshore data, so it is the norm,’ said Mr Gavey.
‘The office environment is no longer regarded as business critical, but keeping the data secure certainly is,’ he said.