How data centers were able to weather Houston and Irma

The opening of hurricane season packed a punch with Harvey and Irma battering Texas and Florida, but there was some silver linings that came out of these natural disasters.

Data centers in some of the hardest hit cities – Houston and Miami – managed to remain operational during the storms. Many reported that they never stopped sending and transmitting data. Even when the power went out, the center persevered.

Since many of these data centers provide service throughout the nation, it was vital that these centers were operational. While in some cases, centers weren’t able to withstand the brunt of the storm, many owed their survival and safety of their staffers to these three key factors:

  1. Building in a safe place. Many data centers in both Texas and Florida were built above long-established flood plains. Whether the buildings went under flood waters depended primarily on this location. In some instances, such as Data Foundry at Houston, the staff never lost power or felt to be in danger. In fact, they were so comfortable they pooled resources to watch the Floyd Mayweather – Conor McGregor boxing match during Harvey. Make sure your data center is built in a place that hasn’t been labeled a floodplain in the past 500 years, and are built above flood prevention systems like levies and storm catches.
  2. Preparation was key. As Irma approached, staffers of Digital Realty in Miami monitored the storm conditions and prepped the generators. There was ample diesel stocked on-site, so when power went out the backup systems could keep the building going for several hours. 14 employees hunkered down in the fortified building and weathered Irma throughout the weekend, reportedly seasoned Floridians and calm throughout the hurricane. While some preparation right before the emergency system hits is all well and good, it’s best to test your backup systems and process for what to do in case the center goes down before the hurricane hits. Make sure there’s a chain of command and clear instructions for what to do in emergencies.
  3. Cover all of your bases. Skybox in Houston was aptly prepared to care not just for their data centers, but also for their staff and families as homes flooded. The building was packed with emergency kits, blankets, extra food and potable water. Apparently, the only things needed were a washer and dryer.