Power outage … or ouch!

The recent wind and rainstorm knocked out the power for tens of thousands in the Puget Sound area, including many businesses. Hopefully, yours wasn’t one of them.

Wind takes down trees and causes power outages
How well is your business protected from power outages?

How do your servers shut down in the event of a sudden outage?

  1. “Oh, No…”
  2. “All of power strips have surge protectors… I think…”
  3. “I have a UPS that’s been tested for controlled shut-downs in the event of power loss…”

Hint: The answer you want is C.

The most important things you can do in the event of a power outage

Regardless, it’s important to understand the risks sudden power outages can cause to your network, and, if necessary, deal with it in an informed way.

If you answered A or B, you might be looking at effects like these:

  • Loss of unsaved data or drive corruption
  • Operating System problems caused by not shutting down properly
  • Damage to computer parts caused by changes in voltage
  • Inability to recover because of an incomplete backup strategy
  • Limitations/inability to operate your business until your power is restored

Disk and Database Corruption

Aside from the obvious problems of the loss of unsaved data when a workstation loses power, servers with their multiple disks configured as RAID arrays and multiple databases are ripe for corruption when power is lost

Improper shutdowns

Another, even deeper problem may arise when power failures affect operation systems or hardware of computers. Shutting computers down by removing power without proper shutdown procedures may cause problems when rebooting. . These operating system problems can cause chain reactions making your data inaccessible.

If this has happened, then call ITP immediately. Recovering a corrupted operating system or RAID array requires steady analysis and methodical procedures. Haste at this point can make the difference in successfully recovering your data.

Damage by voltage fluctuation 

The most vulnerable moments in a computer’s life occur during power-up and power-down cycles. Sudden removal of power with its rapid changes in voltage can damage most every compoenent including power supplies and main logic boards. Some problems can be solved by replacing the power supply but there are also a possibility for damaging other hardware components, e.g. hard drives SSDs and memory which are very sensitive to changes in voltage and strong magnetic fields.

If a workstation seems to start up properly, then proceed; you probably avoided any major repercussion. However, just because a server appears to startup properly, there still may be corruption. Most RAID controllers sense when an array has errors and will rebuild to resolve most corruption issues. Ideally, we never place that demand on our servers.

As a rule, we ALWAYS place an adequately sized uninterruptible power supply (UPS) in front of every server… we diligently work to avoid hard-shutdown of servers. Placing a UPS on every workstation is a bit more of a question; the cost will add another 10-15% to the cost of each workstation, so this decision is one of balancing the cost of the UPS against data protection and avoiding a shortened life of the workstation.

Insufficient backup structure

Without doubt, the unexpected does happen… power failures do occur… RAID arrays do fail. A well thought-out and executed backup strategy is the only real protection against catastrophic loss of data, whether it be due to a mistakenly pulled power plug or something much worse. Perhaps you back up to an external drive, or another computer in your office. Perhaps, you rely on the cloud. That’s great because each of these represent one tier of a successful backup plan. But if that external drive is your sole backup strategy, then you are not well protected against data loss.

ITP’s multi-tiered backup strategy enables you to recover your data and reset your network from accidents caused by power failures or just those plain old stupid mistakes that we all make from time to time.

The big challenge of an outage in the Puget Sound region is that it can last hours or days. We can’t speed up repair crews, but we can set it up so that the functions provided by your servers are replicated at our data center… oh wait… that’s a different blog. We’ll get to that soon.

Got concerns?

If you are concerned about the emergency power outage strategies your business has or some other network issue, contact us today. We would be glad to help you assess and mitigate your risks.

In the meantime, build and TEST a multi-tiered backup strategy that will see you company through the emergencies we all inevitably face one in a while.