Ensuring Data Centers Stay Online During Extreme Weather
How can you ensure that data centers stay online during extreme weather?
Essential steps for ensuring the data center availability during extreme weather conditions:
• Cancel all scheduled maintenance prior to and for the duration of the storm.
• Review and confirm emergency action plans and procedures with the staff on how and where to operate the power, water, gas, and other utility services within your facility at main switches.
• Ensure all backup power systems and the transfer switchgear operates properly. A best practice is to start with a power failure checklist. Make sure that you can fail over to the backup power supply (generators or an alternate feed) for continuous operations at the facility.
• Contact your generator service vendor to have a generator technician on site. Make sure fuel tanks are full and levels are verified.
• Ensure backup fuel supply vendors have been placed on standby in the event of extended power interruption. Generators eat up a lot of fuel when they are operating. You need to know the generator burn rate (gallons per hour of fuel burned) to determine generator runtime so you will know when to call in fuel reserves.
• It is a good practice to have a pre-defined agreement for emergency service with your fuel provider. Notify them immediately that you may require additional fuel and have it delivered to the site (you won't be the only one looking for fuel if the event lasts for an extended period).
• Remember to consider that your fuel provider may be unable to reach you due to road conditions. (Many data centers have on-site fuel storage tanks that can provide fuel for an extended period — some can run on generators for as much as 72 hours or more without refueling).
• Ensure your emergency communications plan is up to date. Communication and exchange of information will be one of the highest priority operations. Correct communication in any crises is critical to mitigating impending risks. The Internet/intranets may be inoperative.
• Monitor the National Weather Service to have a way of receiving reports of significant changes in weather conditions so you can keep track of the storm development.
• Make sure monitoring is set and ready to send alerts on any degradation or failures.
• Have additional data center engineers and technical support staff on-site throughout the duration of the storm to monitor operations and ensure infrastructure availability.
Answers provided by Chris Wade. Wade has been involved in the mission critical facilities industry for more than 25 years. He is currently the Technical Services Program Manager for Newmark Grubb Knight Frank (NGKF), based in Dallas, Texas.