When Disaster Strikes: In the Data Center, Defense Is the Best Offense

While an average data center is making better use of its energy, it’s more likely to suffer an outage.

Ed Spears is a Product Manager for Eaton.

From electrical outages to severe weather to cybercrime, disasters can happen at any time. However, no matter the threat, data centers are expected to remain up-and-running at all times. To ensure uptime in the event of an emergency, it’s important for organizations to have a well-thought-out disaster preparedness plan to return to productivity – and do it quickly.

While power outages have always been a concern for data center managers, these events have grown more common – a trend that a recent Uptime Institute report attributes to complexities of hybrid IT that are causing many organizations to struggle. The survey showed that, while an average data center is making better use of its energy, it’s more likely to suffer an outage. These outages are also more damaging than they were in the previous year. 

As data centers find themselves more vulnerable to threats of downtime, it’s important to take a step back and assess current disaster recovery procedures. In this article, we’ll explore a few things data center and IT professionals can do to drive continuous uptime.  

Calling for Backup  

In most data center environments, the first step to defend against downtime involves the use of a reliable uninterruptible power system (UPS), usually in conjunction with a backup generator. These systems help organizations avoid data loss and protect against hardware damage, providing availability for networks and other applications in the case of a power event. Because these systems are so instrumental to business continuity, it’s important to be careful in assessing the features and functionalities that go along with their deployments.

One of the major factors for organizations to consider with their UPSs is resiliency. For instance, how much battery backup time is needed to shut down systems or switch to backup generators in case of an emergency? Redundancy is another factor. Safeguarding UPSs can help to ensure backup power is always available; if a single module fails or needs to be taken offline for service, the redundant UPS system will still be able to provide adequate power.

When assessing disaster preparedness, it’s also important to consider how power will be delivered to critical equipment. In some cases, data center managers may simply plug loads directly into their UPS. In other situations, a power distribution unit (PDU) fitted with multiple outputs can be deployed to distribute electric power – which is especially useful in rack environments or with networking equipment that is located within a data center.

The Right Kind of Monitoring 

Operating a UPS without power management software is like driving in the rain without windshield wipers – you may be protected from the downpour, but you can’t see things clearly. Together, a UPS solution combined with monitoring and management software is the perfect complement for data center managers to gain that enhanced visibility.  

One of the biggest benefits that leading power management software solutions today offer is the ability to integrate with common virtualization platforms. Providing the tools needed to monitor and manage power devices in either a physical or virtual environment, these systems help ensure uptime and data integrity by allowing users to remotely monitor, manage and control UPSs and other devices on an organization’s network. The UPS can work with the hypervisor to automatically initiate a data migration to a disaster recovery site during a facility power loss or severe weather event. From reviewing event history and providing alerts to delivering real-time status and automating issue resolution, the tools can be used to help keep critical equipment running.

Some solutions are also harnessing advancements in predictive analytics services, which can help organizations shift the power monitoring strategy from reactive to proactive. By collecting and analyzing data from connected power infrastructure devices, the solutions allow staff to anticipate failure of critical power components before they occur. Repairs or updates can be scheduled at convenient times, avoiding emergency service calls, and utilizing convenient maintenance windows. And, as these systems grow more advanced, they will enable more central, efficient management of an organization’s entire power infrastructure – including UPSs, PDUs and other integrated power systems across multiple vendors and platforms.

Don’t Forget Those Checkups

To avoid an unexpected breakdown, vehicles need regular preventive maintenance, including routine oil changes and tune-ups. Ensuring the ongoing optimal performance of UPSs and other power management systems is much the same.

This notion is backed by recent research that Eaton conducted surrounding service records of UPSs that experienced load loss. The study found that customers who had two preventive maintenance visits per year were four times less likely to have a load loss event resulting in unplanned downtime.

Regular service visits can help detect a wide range of ailments before they become serious and costly issues. A trained technician can walk data center managers through inspections during a service call, evaluating UPSs, testing batteries and examining other key components – such as fans, capacitors and internal connections. If a data center has a generator, it’s also important to test those regularly to ensure lasting emergency power in case there’s an extended outage.

Looking Ahead

At the end of the day, a lot rides on a data center’s electrical systems. Unplanned power outages can have a devastating impact on operations and cost a lot of money. To optimize power systems and avoid the dangers of downtime, organizations and their IT teams need to be ready with a good defense. By leveraging integrated power backup solutions, coupled with routine service checkups, data centers will be prepared for the unexpected events that might come their way.

Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Informa.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating.

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