Hurricane Florence has threatened what some are calling “potentially catastrophic” damage to the mid- and south-Atlantic coast. Already, thousands of people in North and South Carolina have evacuated their homes.
But it’s not just residential neighborhoods that are in the storm’s path. Flooding and wind damage can also take its toll on data centers, and many large corporations rely on data centers that could be caught in Hurricane Florence’s deluge.
Among the companies scrambling to protect their data storage and infrastructure? Microsoft, Google, IBM, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook.
Most of the huge public cloud facilities have planned ahead for situations just like this. In the same way that California data centers are designed to withstand earthquakes and forest fires, data centers in the Carolinas are designed with hurricane season in mind.
They’re designed to incorporate stormproof building exteriors, backup generators, and a few other just-in-case safeguards to keep things running smoothly while the storm rages on. A power outage in any section of these buildings could lead to disaster, including loss of data and destruction of expensive, custom equipment. Indeed, because of the sensitive data and equipment, many data centers have backup plans for their backup plans.
Inadequate, poorly maintained, or failed air conditioning in the server rooms of a data center directly leads to more than 65% of IT equipment failures. That’s why special attention is given to backup generators that run these cooling systems. Facebook reportedly has at least two generators dedicated to the cooling system at their Forest City, NC campus.
Many of the larger data centers located inland are unconcerned, but Florence is predicted to move slowly and drop a lot of rain. Flooding can happen, damage can happen, and backup systems can indeed fail.
Virginia and North Carolina have been the biggest hotbeds for new data center construction in the United States lately. In addition, Maryland and Baltimore also have their fair share of tech hotspots prepping for the storm. Businesses such as ByteGrid, XO Communications, and Verizon all have Baltimore-based data centers.
Florence might be the worst storm this region of the country has experienced in the past 60 or so years, but experts are concerned it won’t be the last. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that 20,237 significant storms were recorded in 2016, a three-year high and slight increase from 2015’s 19,172 storms. The numbers were even more unsettling for 2017, when a whopping six major hurricanes formed in the North Atlantic, in comparison to 2016’s three major hurricanes. As this has already been a storm-heavy summer for the mid- and south-Atlantic, experts are concerned about what the 2018 hurricane season has in store.
Homeowners are right to be worried — residential water damage costs $2,386 to repair on average. Even worse, wind damage costs homeowners $5,757.
As Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has commented about the state of emergency in his state, “We are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.”