Data Centers

Tech Tip: Keep your power systems in check

By Mike Talon

A client of mine once went to the disaster recovery data center with a children's nightlight to check the power systems in the racks of servers the company was in the process of setting up. After plugging in the nightlight, the client was able to determine that none of the racks were hooked into a live circuit. Fortunately, they figured this out before the company had to fail over.

Everything in your DR plan, from the smallest desktop PC to the largest mainframe, requires power to function. Power is an extremely important resource, but it's often taken for granted—especially in the United States—and overlooked when working with DR solutions.

Many companies lack proper power management, particularly at the recovery site. However, it's vital that the production facility and the DR site are adequately powered. Emergency uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) are generally employed in larger data centers, but many small to midsize organizations don't provide this protection. In fact, some branch offices and small businesses ignore the fact that the power can fail at any time.

To protect your organization, get in touch with the power companies in your area when you're building the production facilities (or even if you've already built them), and ask the hard questions. How is their record for service outages? What happens in the event of an outage? Which services will they provide? If you can avoid having to move operations to the DR site, that's always the preferred option.

In addition, make sure you're protecting all IT equipment with UPS systems. Since UPS devices are designed to support operations for only 30 minutes to an hour, they won't solve serious power issues, but they may save you if the power company has a minor interruption in service. At the very least, they give you a chance to shut down all your systems gracefully so you don't lose vital data.

For larger organizations, try to locate data centers that are already built with multiple connections to different power grids, or guarantee that you can get those hookups if you're building your own. Even if there's only one power company in your area, there's a good chance that there are multiple grid connections available. This will allow you to maintain power even if one grid section goes dark due to interruptions.

When you're looking into power solutions, remember that the further apart the production and DR facilities are located, the better the chance that a power outage at one site will not impact the other. You may even be able to link into multiple power suppliers if they're located far enough apart, which is better than simply hooking into separate grids.

Power will be a major factor in your DR plan, even if it's usually overlooked. Apply the same rules to power at the DR center as at the production location, and you won't find yourself lost in the dark during an emergency.

Mike Talon is an IT consultant and freelance journalist who has worked for both traditional businesses and dot-com startups.

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