After Hurricane Sandy: Lessons for the data center

You never want to say 'I told you so,' but now is a good time to bring up the need for better monitoring, backup power, and other improvements

Like half the world, I watched Hurricane Sandy introduce herself to New York and New Jersey last week. I have significant history and family in both states, so the time was spent with much apprehension. Fortunately my relatives were all safe and dry, though the same could not be said for lower Manhattan and large swaths of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Hurricane Sandy made a huge dent in the lives of millions of people.

Among the casualties were untold numbers of data centers that were suddenly without power. Entire industrial parks, huge office buildings, and hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- of servers have been orphaned for lack of electricity. In many places, that electricity may not return for days or weeks.

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Even inland locations are enduring long-term power outages immediately impacting the businesses that rely on those resources. Nearly no generators are available, and those that can be trucked in from unaffected areas are quickly snapped up. For many companies, a generator of sufficient size to run a major operation or entire building would not be economically feasible even if it were available. In short, it's a bad time for everyone.

A disaster like Hurricane Sandy is exactly why we have DR planning. This is exactly why we hedge our bets and pay attention to the details of our infrastructure -- thus, when a Sandy happens, we don't lose everything. Now that we've seen an event occur that's nearly unprecedented in the area, perhaps those who have been busy discounting DR planning and expense may finally see the importance of those efforts. Sometimes it takes a lot to change a person's mind.

This is not just an opportunity for those affected by the storm. It's an opportunity for anyone, anywhere. If it can happen there, it can happen here. The next emergency may not come in the form of a hurricane, but to ignore or downplay the possibility of a significant geological or meteorological event impacting critical business operations is never a good move.

This kind of wake-up call can help revolutionize an infrastructure. Decisions get made in the aftermath of significant catastrophic events that normally wouldn't even approach the table. While it may seem opportunistic to take advantage of a situation like this, all of that will disappear when the next event comes through, and those expenses and preparations reduce the business impact.

At the very least, Sandy should be enough to authorize full computer room or data center telemetry. Get as many environmental data points as you can, and make sure the alerting and notification facilities are both functional and robust.

If you've been equivocating on whether to add a backup generator, here's your motivation. If you've been dragging your feet on adding significant environmental and data center monitoring, here's your chance. If you have simply not been thinking about how to keep your business running when disaster strikes, here's your lesson.

This story, "After Hurricane Sandy: Lessons for the data center," was originally published at Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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