In Hurricane Sandy

The ultimate limit of data centre resiliency
From some disasters, there can be no recovery.Today’s data centres are being built with multiple safeguards against data loss, power loss and to some degree, the elements.  But as we saw with Hurricane Sandy, once your diesel generators get flooded with sea water, it doesn’t matter what level of resiliency you’ve taken your data centre to: It’s game over.

And with the current popularity of cloud services, these kinds of truly catastrophic disasters are invariably going to affect more people.
Robert Offley, president and CEO of CentriLogic Inc., a cloud, hosting and managed services provider with two data centres in Canada, two in the U.S., and two in the U.K, says the risk of natural disaster has prompted companies like his own to locate their infrastructure more carefully.
Data centres have traditionally been built with co-location customers that need to be close to their racks in mind, he notes. But in doing so, compromises have to be made if that data centre happens to be “over a 100-year floodplain.”
“I think there’s going to be more of a trend for companies to build data centres outside of the metropolitan areas and therefore you’re not making necessarily as many compromises,” Offley says.
On the other hand, Offley predicts that cloud consumers may also become more discerning in terms of selecting a provider, looking more closely at where its data centres are located.
With the speed of the Internet increasing, proximity to cities isn’t as important, he adds, citing developments in the past five years such as Apple building a data centre in North Carolina and Yahoo building one in upstate New York.
In fact, one of CentriLogic’s own data centres was located in the latter region for the same reason, Offley says. It’s not an area generally prone to catastrophes, whether floods or terrorist attacks. Its two Canadian data centres, meanwhile, were built in Toronto and Mississauga, also considered very low risk in this regard.
Mark Schrutt, director of services and enterprise applications at IDC Canada, says from the point of view of providers, it comes down to a risk versus return calculation that doesn’t add up every time.
For example, he says, some companies based in New York City had located their data centres across the river in New Jersey both because real estate was cheaper and the threat of terrorism lower. But then, a hurricane of almost unprecedented size struck the whole region.
These types of risks can be mitigated but never avoided entirely, he says.
“If all of a sudden your data centre goes under or if an airplane goes into it — that kind of risk, whether you’re running your own or whether it’s a hosting firm — you cannot eliminate, although you obviously locate in different areas that are low hurricane zones… or you don’t locate near Lester Pearson Airport,” Schrutt says.
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