Nobody wants to think about a disaster that will cripple or even destroy their data center. But even as hurricane season is over for the Atlantic states and the Gulf Coast, wildfires are raging in Southern California. Earthquakes are an ever-present danger. Disaster planning is climbing higher on the priority list for many data center administrators.

Disaster recovery (DR) planning typically focuses on data protection and application availability. Information held on servers and storage devices is considered by most organizations to be infinitely more valuable than the technology itself. However, disaster recovery plans must also include provisions to protect equipment from physical damage.

Rental: Ideally, the data centers would be located in a geographic area that is not prone to natural disasters. That is rarely possible, so organizations must do everything possible to insulate you from any disaster that occurs. That means locating the room in an interior room or at least as far away from the windows as possible. In areas where hurricanes and tornadoes are the greatest threat, an underground location may be the best option (unless flooding is a problem). In earthquake zones, it is critical to select a well-constructed building that meets the latest codes.

Backup power: Power outages are a leading cause of equipment downtime, and UPS failure is the number one cause of unplanned equipment outages. The UPS must be carefully selected, implemented and maintained to ensure a constant supply of conditioned power at a regulated voltage level.

Ceasefire: Many data centers rely on conventional sprinkler systems, but water can destroy equipment and cause other problems. A better approach is to employ a dry “pre-action” system that will extinguish most fires before the sprinkler system is activated. Modern fire suppression systems use halocarbons, which remove heat from fires, or inert gases, which deprive them of oxygen. Both can provide excellent fire suppression if the system is properly designed, installed, and tested. The fire alarm must also be tested; if faulty, the fire suppression system may not activate.

Flood control: If the data room is located in an area prone to flooding, a pump system must be installed. The system must automatically wake up and be connected to generator power to continue operating if the utility grid goes down.

Earthquake protection: In earthquake prone areas, it is important to select racks and cabinets that are rated to withstand seismic activity. These units often have special mounting brackets to hold them securely to the ground.

Flexible processes: Data center staff must understand their responsibilities and be fully trained in DR procedures. The equipment must be monitored by at least one person at all times. Run books should be kept up-to-date so that equipment can be quickly recovered or reconfigured in an emergency. DR processes must also be well documented, but flexibility is important. Staff must feel empowered to make decisions and improvise based on the situation at hand.

Proof: In most organizations, the disaster recovery plan is rarely, if ever, tested. The plan should be tested at least twice a year and updated as the business environment and priorities change.

These 7 steps can help you build a resilient and flexible data center infrastructure design and select systems that will protect your valuable equipment.

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