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When a Data Center Goes Down, How Does it Affect your Business?


We have no shortage of statistics on data centers failing- we would need to look no further than Amazon’s repeated outages this year alone.  That said, perhaps the most striking example of what can happen comes from Calgary last week:  essentially, the data center at Shaw Communications had an explosion, along with a fire that wiped out both their primary and backup systems- then, the sprinklers that put out the fire damaged a large number of servers.  This was an incredibly important data center- its outage meant that the city’s emergency services were down, along with all of property and vehicle information.  Most frighteningly, the medical computer network for Alberta Health Services was also knocked out. This means that surgeries and medical procedures were unable to be performed for DAYS.  When we talk about downed data centers, we usually speak in terms of business profits; in this case, it could have resulted in physical harm, or even death.

Shaw Explosion

So when a data center fails, the influences will vary based on the industry you are in.  Naturally, industries based on their online presence, such as PayPal or Amazon, will see a massive loss of profit and online presence.  There are secondary issues as well: people begin to lose faith in the reliability of your site, and may become very hesitant to engage with it- this is especially true if your business holds their personal or financial information.  Outages cause a loss of faith in your company’s ability to deliver on its promises of security and availability, and this can be just as damaging as the initial profit loss.

With other industries, the effects may be less drastic, but problems remain.  Most, if not all record keeping is done online these days, so an outage means that shipping, manufacturing, or any scientific research would come to a grinding halt.  It may be a nice break for employees, perhaps, but it is an extremely expensive one for the company as a whole.  And then there are the essential services, as demonstrated in Calgary- emergency services were unavailable, as were medical procedures.  These are the kind of things that need consistent, constant availability.

When looking into cloud computing or data storage, it is important to remember the repercussions of an outage.  A few hours a year might not seem like much, but when bad timing is all it takes to really cripple a business, how much is the risk worth?  Make sure you check the uptime statistics, and the emergency protocols.  Do they have a standard water sprinkler system that can put out a fire, but at the cost of the servers in the room, or have they invested in a better system like Ecaro-25, which puts out a fire without damaging the equipment?  Do they have an estimated few seconds of downtime a year?  Or is it more like several hours? Data Centers are certainly cost effective, and can be a much safer place to store data- just make sure that the company running it has invested in making sure that your equipment is safe.


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