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What To Do When Lightning Strikes? Don't Ask Google!

23 September, 2015

What To Do When Lightning Strikes? Don't Ask Google!

No matter how well designed and built a data centre is, and how well prepared it is for a disaster, often Mother Nature can get the best of them. Last month, a series of lightning strikes at a power grid in Belgium caused data loss at a data centre owned by online giant Google. And lets’ face it, if it can happen to Google it can happen to anyone!

Data Centre LightningLightning strikes do not need to strike the building itself to cause damage and disruptions, as cabling struck a kilometre away can bring the shock back to the centre. In this instance, lightning struck the power grid nearby to Google’s data centre four times in a row – sounds unlucky, but data centres need more lightning protection than most buildings.

What damage was done?

The lightning strikes affected a number of disks, and some people permanently lost files. It’s not known which clients were affected or what data was lost, but in a statement Google said just 0.000001% of disk space was permanently affected. The BBC also claims that all lost data was able to be recovered thanks to back up technologies.

The company has also vowed to improve its protective and response procedures to make future responses less likely.

What else can lightning do to data centres?

Google isn’t the only super software company to suffer a disastrous lightning strike. Microsoft and Amazon have been victims of lightning when data centres were struck by lightning in Dublin back in 2011. The consequences of this were significantly worse – lightning struck a transformer near Amazon’s data centre which caused a fire and an explosion. This left the facility unable to restart its generators, and the subsequent power outage caused downtime for many of Amazon’s services.

What else can cause data loss or damage?

One of the most unusual causes of data centre power outages in the US is squirrels! Other animals causing mischief for data centres include sharks, who often attack underwater cables. It is thought that the pulsing currents running through the cables are misinterpreted by threats by the sharks.

This story highlights how any data centre can be vulnerable to a lightning strike, or other disasters which can compromise power and data. Be prepared with disaster recovery plans.

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