Florida Data Centers Brace to Serve Customers Weathering Irma

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By Jimmy H. Koo

Florida data center cloud services and hurricane storm clouds shouldn’t mix, so operators are taking steps to maintain normal customer operations before the arrival of Hurricane Irma, data center industry executives told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 7.

Cloud computing is often touted as a more secure way to manage data off-site and above the fray. But information stored in and accessed via the cloud always comes down to earth because it is maintained in data centers, including many in Florida right in the predicted path of Irma. Those centers are invoking disaster protocols to make sure clients will be able to access important corporate data regardless of what devastation the storm wreaks.

Data centers are designed to deal with natural disasters in order to get in front of big events such as Irma, Robert Wilson, executive vice president at data center company DataSite in Orlando, Fla., told Bloomberg BNA.

The data centers at issue aren’t small basement facilities; they include massive power backups, flood controls, and physical security systems. However, if data centers are facing a likelihood of being compromised, operators have backup plans to move data to other locations.

Atlantic.Net CEO Marty Puranik told Bloomberg BNA that the data-hosting company has disaster recovery plans in place, including potentially moving information from its Orlando data center to one of its other centers “until the storm has passed.” Atlantic.Net’s options include data centers in Toronto, New York, Dallas, San Francisco, and London.

Even within Florida, geographic location is important. Inland Orlando—the Florida location for DataSite and Atlantic.Net sites—is 97 feet above sea level and provides some safety, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. According to Cologix Inc., which operates data centers around the U.S., a data center in Jacksonville, Fla., is “5 times less likely to be hit by a hurricane than Miami.”

Leaving Town

“The operational philosophy of most data centers is: failure is not an option,” Wilson said.

Irma may test that proposition as “one of the strongest storms ever to rise out of the Atlantic Ocean and the most powerful storm to form outside of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico,” according to Bloomberg News. It is predicted to hit to the U.S. mainland barely two weeks after Hurricane Harvey, which dumped record rainfall that brought massive flooding to the Houston metropolitan area.

Despite data centers’ assurances, some companies may rely on backup copies of data and take them out of harm’s way.

According to Wilson, many companies proactively make redundant backups of data in various mediums, including disks and tapes, and can move them to secure locations.

More companies are “transitioning from the world of backing up data to a world that is more focused on having redundant capabilities of storing and processing data,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jimmy H. Koo in Washington at jkoo@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald Aplin at daplin@bna.com

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