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Hurricane Irene Fallout: Is Your Data Center Ready For Major Weather Events?

For those living on the eastern seaboard of the U.S., you have probably heard all about Hurricane Irene pounding the East Coast with heavy rain and high winds over the past weekend. The storm system brought Category Two conditions along the Carolinas, Category One conditions through Maryland and Delaware and tropical storm conditions through New York City and the Northeast where our base of Manchester, NH, got especially hit hard Sunday.

For professionals running Internet applications worldwide, a key concern is what happens to infrastructure when a power outage occurs, a condition of high likelihood when faced with impending hurricane events.
When picking a data center to host applications in, most companies run through a diligence process to collect information about the facility’s capabilities. The list of common criteria considered include:

  • Access to power grids – Are multiple power grids available?
  • Generators – Does the facility have generator power available? If so, how long can the generators run at what power loads?
  • Uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems – Does the facility ensure that connected compute loads will remain available during the cutover between electrical grids and/or generator power?
  • Connectivity – Does the facility provide access to multiple Internet connections for redundancy via separate points of entry to the building?

There’s many more to consider, but that’s not exactly the point.

Hurricane Irene - Dyn UptimeThese are questions you should ask ahead of your choosing of a data center.

Going back to the hurricane topic, what questions should you be asking your data center providers when the threat of a storm is impending? We thought we’d share some of the questions we asked our data center providers regarding their preparation for the storm. Some of the questions are obvious, while others are more out of the norm.

Either way, we think that asking your data center provider these questions will either help you to feel confident in preparations being made or serve as a reminder to some actions that could be taken to help prevent outages.

Here’s your data center checklist:

  • Has an operational test of the generator plant been completed?
  • Have fuel levels been confirmed full and is additional fuel available to the facility on contract should the need arise? Having generators in place are great, but without fuel, they’re obviously useless.
  • Has the data center’s cooling plant been reviewed for operational contingency planning? Two hidden monsters in the data center world are that many cooling plants require fresh water for operation and that the changeover from utility power to generator power can have a delayed effect in cooling the data center.Firstly, if your data center’s cooling plant does require fresh water (which most do), check to make sure that the facility’s water storage tanks have been filled to ensure an adequate supply of water. Second, check with your provider to make sure that the cutover from utility power to generator power has been fully tested, and that temperature levels in the data center will remain stable during the changeover.
  • Having 6-10 inches of water dropped on a building in a short amount of time can cause problems with roof and drainage systems, putting buildings under incredible stress and at risk of collapse. Verify that drainage systems have been checked and are ready to absorb the water.
  • What emergency supplies are available in the event of a roof problem or if a door or window were to breach due to the high winds in the storm? Does the facility have tarps and plastic on-hand to deal with such an issue?
  • What is the facility’s staffing plan during the hurricane? Is the facility ready to have staff on site 24/7 with access to food, water and sleeping accommodations if needed? Having staff on site enables the facility to react immediately to situations that could occur during the storm, such as those mentioned above.
  • What about “remote hands” services? Will you be able to rely on the data center to support your systems, as per usual, during the storm?

So with all this in mind, have you checked in with your data center lately? It’s not a bad idea to check in and ask some of the tough questions and hear about plans.

In the long run, it’s well worth it.


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Whois: Tom Daly

Tom Daly is a co-founder of Dyn, a pioneer in managed DNS and a leader in cloud-based infrastructure that connects users with digital content and experiences across a global internet.