Web Hosting Data Center Hurricane Preparedness
The first hurricane of the season is bearing down on the southeastern United
States. The scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration's (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center (CPC), Hurricane Research
Division (HRD), and National Hurricane Center (NHC) are predicting a 70
percentchance of an above-normal 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. The outlook
calls for 12-15 tropical storms, with 7-9 becoming hurricanes, and 3-5 of these
becoming major hurricanes. This prediction reflects a very likely continuation
of above-normal activity that began in 1995.
If you own or operate a web hosting data center in the path of a potential
hurricane, Cheap Hosting Directory prepared several tips to help you
stay in operation during such an event.
1. Prepare for a Hurricane Ahead of Time - Don’t wait until the last minute to
check your emergency data center operations. An obvious check includes your
backup generator. You should make certain that you have the maximum
complement of fuel necessary to run for the maximum duration you expect
power to be down. You should absolutely test run your generator for several
minutes and monitor its stability well in advance of any expected emergency.
Make sure you have a written chain of command and a communication plan in
place as well.
2. Track the Path of the Hurricane Carefully - A reliable source of hurricane
tracking is http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/index.shtml. This is the National Weather
Service Tropical Prediction Center. There are tropical storm forecasts and
advisories – as well as links to expected storm paths and live radar maps.
3. Have Your Emergency Crew in Place Well Ahead of the Storm - Designate
your emergency response team and get them in your data center at least 1 full
day before the storm is expected to hit. Waiting too long to get the team in
place can lead to team members being cut off from your location due to the
weather – winds and rain can down power lines and trees, or flood major
thoroughfares making transportation impossible.
4. Stock up on Food, Toiletries, and First Aid Supplies - Your emergency team
may have to be in place for several days during a major storm. They will most
likely be unable to drive out to the store to pick up sundries during the storm.
They may also dash into the data center facility at the last minute – forgetting
essential toiletries (toothbrush, soap, etc.). Providing these items can free your
team up to worry about bigger problems - like keeping the servers running.
5. Give Your Emergency Team Something to Do While They Wait - Gaming
consoles, DVD's, magazines, board games, or hourly monitoring tasks can all
be invaluable to keep your team members occupied during the long hours of
waiting and watching. According to experts who have been through multiple
hurricane events - the most important thing is too insure that your team has a
comfortable place to sleep.
6. Rehearse Your Worst Case Backup Scenario - Assume that the absolute
worst-case thing happens. Complete, utter catastrophe. Then rehearse how you
will restore service in a systematic way. This will include completely
implementing your backup solution - from start to finish.
7. Keep Your Customer Base Informed of Your Challenges - Make certain that
you share your challenges with your customer base proactively. Post regular
updates on both the storm and your network operations status in a commonly
checked customer area (such as in your control panel). This will serve to
assure customers that you are doing everything possible to protect their
interests. It will also make any down time easier to manage - as customers
could ''see it coming'' – rather than being blindsided by it.
Mr. Jim Collins, President of Affinity Internet, is no stranger to data center
hurricane preparedness. During the 2004 hurricane season, the company's Fort
Lauderdale and Miami, Florida data centers both survived unscathed from near
direct hits by four major hurricanes in the span of 4 months.
Mr. Collins had this to say regarding web hosting data centers, hurricanes, and
customer uptime: ''Customers rightfully expect their service provider to take
their online presence as seriously as they do, and for Affinity, that translates
into a detailed and practiced disaster preparedness plan. Our focus on
providing a superb customer experience motivates us to go the extra mile.
While I wouldn’t want to go through another year like 2004, I sleep a little
easier knowing that we could handle it because of the quality and dedication of
our team, and our extensive planning and preparation.''
Mr. Collins adds a few extra points to get your operation ready for a hurricane.
Do a 'dry' run. Pick a weekend outside of the disaster season and do a dry run
to make sure you really have all you’re going to need. The smallest details can
render the most carefully thought out plans worthless. The last thing you want
in the middle of a storm is someone running out for toilet paper because the
building maintenance service locks the supply closet.
Build a comprehensive communication plan that includes all available media.
You never really know what’s going to go down. Make sure you have a
communication plan that covers wireless, wireline and Internet media - and
make sure you have someone outside of the impacted area that is tracking and
communicating for the company. It is not at all unusual to have a clearer
picture of what's going on from a thousand miles away than right in the middle
of the storm.
Remember that there are lives at stake. The team that commits to being in the
facility during the storm can be literally putting their lives on the line for your
business. Make sure that emergency services know they are there. Making
sure that you have covered the details is even more meaningful when it comes
to forcing team members to fill out checklists including prescription medicines,
dietary needs, etc. You have to anticipate that any facility will be isolated. In
some cases, Emergency Services can't get through. Never ever take this
Early and diligent preparation, solid communication with both internal and
external customers, a cool head and a great emergency plan and team are the
tickets to successfully surviving a major hurricane event. Here's hoping that
any major storms steer clear of your operations and web hosting data center.
About Derek Vaughan
Derek Vaughan has been actively marketing on the Internet since 1995. His extensive online marketing experience includes the online direct marketing of books for $300 million per year NYSE traded book publisher Thomas Nelson. Mr. Vaughan has also marketed products online at the Walt Disney Company as the online marketing manager for the ESPNstore.com. Mr. Vaughan was also the marketing manager for the launch of the NASCAR Online Store.
In web hosting, Mr. Vaughan served for 3 years as Senior Director of Marketing for the Affinity Internet, Inc. family of companies. Most recently Mr. Vaughan has been consulting with Cheap Hosting Directory. Mr. Vaughan holds degrees from both the Indiana University School of Music and Purdue University. He has also received a Master of Business Administration degree from the Owen School at Vanderbilt University.