The impact of real-world events on data centres

Written by Anthony Carter, Managing Director, Connotations Published 2018-03-28 09:04:59

Storing data away from business premises and in the secure confines of a data centre makes perfect sense. Off-site hosting frees up space and offers IT infrastructure beyond what is achievable with an in-house set-up. And, crucially, it ensures data is protected in the event of a disaster such as a fire, flood, or freak accident.

But what happens if any of these real-world events impact a data centre?

Data centres are not immune from such instances. In 2012, when preparing for an incoming blizzard, the state of Iowa in the United States suffered an unexpected electrical fire to its primary data centre, putting $162 million in state payments at risk on payroll processing day. A similar fire affected BT’s Belfast data centre in 2015, impacting customers hosted at the centre for most of the day. Thankfully, on both occasions, no lasting damage was done.

While the occurrence of fires is unexpected, they are not as rare as they might seem. About 6% of all data centre infrastructure issues that lead to downtime are caused by fire. The cause of an outage at Rackspace’s data centre in 2007, however, can truly be classed as a freak incident. A diabetes sufferer driving a 4 x 4 passed out at the wheel causing the vehicle to hit a curb, propel up a grass verge and over the top of four cars before slamming into a building housing the facility’s power transformer!

Whether it’s an event such as a hurricane or snowstorm or a random, one-off accident like the case of the diabetic driver, the damage caused by real-world events cannot be predicted. Therefore, data centres must implement disaster recovery procedures that cover every eventuality.

How Data Centres Protect Your Data

You entrust a data centre with your data and its protection. Facilities must ensure no harm comes to this data under any circumstances.

Backup power

In the event of a fire, flooding or National Grid power outages, data centres have a duty to ensure data isn’t compromised and downtime is minimised. In order to keep operations online, data centres are designed to include backup generators.

These generators run independently of the main power, running on fuel to keep data centres running at regular capacity until power is restored. Backup power kicks in immediately to prevent businesses falling offline.

Data centres that offer 99.9% or 100% uptime are able to do so because of their investment in state-of-the-art generators.

Building design

Data centres are designed with reinforced concrete, fire doors and fire suppression systems so that fire can be contained to a specific area of a building. Suppression systems include pre-action sprinklers and wet-pipe sprinklers, as well as mist, inert gas or clean agent suppression. When the fire alarm is raised, suppression systems kick into action immediately to contain the fire until emergency services arrive. This minimises damage to infrastructure, lessens the impact of downtime and protects data.

But what if a fire breaks out in an area of a data centre that houses your servers?

This is where data backups are critical. 

Data backups

All data centres make daily and real-time backups of data to ensure businesses have up-to-date information available in the event of a disaster. Traditionally, backups are made disk-to-disk, with newly created backup disks stored at a different location. However, advances in technology have seen cloud backups also become a popular solution.

Cloud backup keeps data safe against all real-world events, from natural disasters to human error. The block-level compression and deduplication offered by cloud backups make it a more cost-effective solution than uncompressed backups, while instant access to data via an online control panel allows data to be restored instantly from anywhere in the world. In order to secure data in the cloud, data centres employ military-grade encryption during data transfers and storage.

No data centre is immune from the threat of real-world events, but with disaster recovery plans and timely implementation, your business remains protected.

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