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Superstorm Sandy underlines importance of datacentre resilience requirements

31 Oct 2012
Hurricane Sandy (Image - NASA)

As Superstorm Sandy headed towards the east coast of the US on Monday evening, preparations centred on ensuring the safety of as many citizens as possible.

This involved the government and emergency services doing all in their power to pass on information and help out wherever they could.

Sites like Twitter were used as key information distribution points, while the authorities urged residents to ensure their phones had fully charged batteries as the storm approached so they could access information.

Meanwhile, for the government, emergency services, the media and other businesses, the need for systems that were up and running and available was of vital importance.

As such, attempting to keep datacentres in the New York area online was of critical importance.

Datacentres are famed for their stringent resilience and back-up measures, with most touting 99.999 per cent year-round availability and numerous back-up options.

However, in the face of Superstorm Sandy, there were only so many preparations that could be carried out before it hit and wreaked its havoc, forcing many firms into drastic, ad-hoc responses.

One provider that knew it would be hit by the storm was Peer 1 Hosting, and so it took as many precautions as it could before the storm hit, as Robert Miggins, senior vice president of business development at the firm, explained to V3.

"We began preparations last Thursday at datacentres in several locations, including New York, looking at things like whether we had enough food and water in our datacentres for staff and if they had places to sleep and if our fuel contracts were all in place and so forth," he said.

However, despite these plans, the scale of the storm soon caused major issues.

"When the storm hit, it soon cut off the commercial power supply, so the system switched to the back-up generator in the building," he said.

"However, the generators are housed in the basement which was later flooded, so this cut off the fuel supply to the generator."

This meant all the providers working out of the datacentre were knocked offline. But Peer 1 had a second back-up plan up its sleeve.

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

View Dan's Google+ profile

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