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Overturned computer and communication racks. Seismic restraint helps to prevent this kind of damage.

Weekend Earthquake A Disaster Recovery Reminder

The 6.1 magnitude earthquake southwest of Napa over the weekend worst the area has seen since 1989.

A 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck 6 miles southwest of Napa, California on Sunday. No casualties have been reported, though extensive damage to property occurred, including devastating damage to wine country. Although data centers safely navigated through the quake, it was a reminder that they must always be prepared for natural disasters.

This was the first earthquake of serious magnitude in the area since 1989. The 1989  earthquake had a magnitude of 6.9 and caused the collapse of part of the Bay Bridge. A 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Baja California in 2010.

“Natural disasters are true of any geography,” said RagingWire CTO Bill Dougherty. Dougherty is a resident of the area and RagingWire has a data center in Sacramento, nearby but outside of the quake zone. “It’s a reminder you can’t ever stop planning for a disaster. The area was lulled in a false sense of security. We haven’t had a bad earthquake in Napa in a long time.”

There are several data centers within the affected area, however all remained online and operational – a success story for the industry. However, it was a wake up call to take disaster recovery seriously. Data center customers in the area should make sure they have a second deployment outside of the fault zone. It could have been a lot worse.

Data center providers themselves are seasoned pros at protecting infrastructure. Racks need to be bolted down and use seismic restraints, and the facility must have multiple layers of redundancy. While the facility may navigate through an earthquake, it’s the outside infrastructure that poses the biggest threat.

“Remember, even if the data center building survives a major quake, the surrounding infrastructure is not resilient,” said Dougherty. “Bridges, roads, power grids, fiber paths, and fuel suppliers are all vulnerable and have a direct impact on your operations and service availability. And there’s no question, another quake will hit the Bay Area. I’m thankful and blessed, it could have been so much worse.”

Many people in the area lost power. Other factors that are less evident come in to play as well.

One factor is the loss of water pressure. “Any water that’s flowing is needed for fires,” said Dougherty.

Water is used in many critical facilities for HVAC systems that use evaporative cooling. If the community source goes down, an additional water supply is needed or the facility may become inoperable.

While data centers rely on fuel contracts to power backups, if there is damage to road infrastructure suppliers might not be able to reach the data center. While data centers are preferred customers and have contracts in place, damage to routes can prevent both fuel and staff from reaching the facility.

Have contingency plans in place not only for infrastructure, but staff. Make sure protocols are established in the event of a disaster.


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