Data Centers Go Into Disaster Recovery Mode For Superstorm Sandy9:47 AM EST Tue. Oct. 30, 2012
Companies providing data center services have been working overtime to prepare their customers for the short-term and long-term impacts of Superstorm Sandy, which has caused widespread flooding and power outages on the northeastern U.S. seaboard since Monday.
Massive flooding and transportation interruptions has made it difficult for data center service providers to access their facilities, causing them and customers to put into action disaster recovery plans.
NaviSite, an Andover, Mass.-based provider of hosted cloud and application services, has its primary data center in Andover, over 30 miles from the ocean, but had emergency procedures in place in preparation for Sandy, said Michael Poole, senior vice president of service delivery for the company.
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"Only our critical infrastructure personnel are going in to the data center," Poole said. "As long as the cell towers stay up, our other people can work out of home."
Preparations at NaviSite for Superstorm Sandy, which late Monday evening was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, began the weekend before the storm hit thanks to a lot of activity from customers who had not planned in advance for the need to shut down multiple offices, Poole said.
"One customer with offices in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., the four major cities hit by Sandy, worried it might not have enough capacity to run its Citrix remote desktop infrastructure," he said. "This storm is unprecedented. So we added additional capacity on Saturday."
The company has also opened a storm bridge on a 24x7 basis to handle customer issues during the emergency, Poole said. For now, the storm bridge will send messages to customers on a daily basis updating them of the situation. But should the Andover data center lose power, company execs will help man the storm bridge phones to help customers, and hourly updates will be sent, he said.
One problem for data center providers facing potential disasters the magnitude of Superstorm Sandy is just how much additional capacity is needed on a temporary vs. a permanent basis, Poole said.
"We might do a lot of work to add capacity to take care of a problem, but then the customer might say, 'OK, the storm's done, we don't need it anymore,'" he said.
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NaviSite, which also has data centers in San Jose, Calif. and in London, is fortunate in that they are located close to good hotel accommodations, Poole said.
"Critical staff in Andover can walk across the street to the Marriott Courtyard," he said. "In such situations, we don't know how long they'll need to be there for the emergency."
NaviSite's Andover facilities, like all well-designed data centers, are built to survive a loss of power with generators and redundant systems, Poole said. "We test them weekly and make sure our diesel tanks are filled for 48 to 72 hours of operations."
Blue Bell, Penn.-based services provider Unisys has two data centers, one in Harrisburg, Pa. and one in Reston, Va., in the path of Superstorm Sandy. However, like all Unisys' data centers, they have a business continuity plan with steps to address outages, a company spokesperson said.
The two data centers have implemented the company's inclement weather plan under which all non-essential personal have been sent home, computer operations staff are continuing to report to the data centers as scheduled, and technical and managerial functions are being run remotely, the spokesperson said.
The data centers are also monitoring electrical power grid conditions, testing their backup diesel generators and putting a data center incident bridge system in place.
San Diego-based cloud storage service provider Nirvanix on Monday activated its Disaster Avoidance Program for customers currently storing data in its Node 4 data center in New Jersey, giving them the option of moving their data to other locations in the Nirvanix Cloud Storage Network on a temporary or full-time basis free of charge.
A company spokesperson said all data in Nirvanix’s Node 4 data center in New Jersey is secure and all services remain normal and available. However, customers who feel the need to migrate data to other locations can do so at no charge to data centers in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Dallas, Frankfurt and Tokyo.
Data Center Knowledge, an online news site focused on data center operations, reported that business and other closures resulting from the storm means that data center operations will often be focused on telecom and network infrastructure to provide both emergency services and social media for users tracking the storm and each other.
While NaviSite is prepared to have infrastructure critical personnel spend off-hours at a hotel across the street during the emergency, for other data centers that may not be enough. Data Center Knowledge reported that some data centers stock food and water supplies inside their facilities to accommodate key personnel who will remain on the job to ensure availability and help deal with customer issues and who may not be able to leave the facilities because of flooding.
PUBLISHED OCT. 30, 2012