Data centers dig in as monster storm strikes America's East Coast

Generators, power supplies, and contingency plans all around

With a major snowstorm set to hit the East Coast of the US tonight, datacenter facilities in the hardest hit areas are hunkering down for what looks to be a rough weekend.

According to the National Weather Service, the storm is expected to bring as much as two feet of snow over the weekend to a major portion of the Eastern Seaboard, including Washington DC, Philadelphia, and New York City.

With the possibility of severe weather and possible power disruptions looming, data centers and service providers are making their own preparations for what looks to be the biggest storm of the season.

Jason Kiser, senior director of operations for 365 Data Centers, told The Register that his company was equipping its facilities in the affected areas with extra hardware, UPS units and full generators, among other things.

"You talk to your suppliers about critical components that could potentially fail and make sure they have those extra parts on hand, and make sure you have them at the site," he explained.

Other, less obvious measures also have to be taken to make sure things keep running smoothly.

In New York, for example, Kiser said 365 has reserved hotel rooms near its Manhattan facility for employees who need to stay within walking distance of the data center when roads and transit are blocked.

Other companies are taking their own measures to ensure uptime. AT&T said it would be equipping its phone towers in the area with backup batteries, and preparing generators for deployment.

The telco is advising customers to keep their phone batteries charged in case of a power outage and have a communication plan in place with friends and family.

While many of the steps companies take are similar standard practices for dealing with severe weather, other measures come from lessons learned in previous disasters. Kiser noted that the New York facility had taken into account the effects of 2012's Hurricane Sandy while preparing for this weekend's storm.

In the aftermath of Sandy, fuel trucks were diverted and roads were earmarked for emergency vehicles, leaving data centers without a reliable route for extra gas for backup generators.

"There is not a whole lot you can do for some of that," he added. ®

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