Users need to be prepared for power cuts

The recent spate of power cuts in London and the east coast of America have highlighted the need for businesses to prepare for...

The recent spate of power cuts in London and the east coast of America have highlighted the need for businesses to prepare for unexpected disruptions.

In a recent interview with Computer Weekly, Simon Mingay, research director at analyst firm Gartner, said the expenditure on business continuity post-11 September, had paid off. "The power cuts have put regional events on the business continuity agenda."

A local disruption to business can have a knock-on effect such as preventing data back-ups or stopping branch-office data synchronisation from completing within the allotted time.

Paul Tyrer, director of channels at power supply specialist APC, said, "In a city such as London where many businesses run a 24/7 operation, any power disruption will affect the customer-facing side of the business."

Successfully restarting business servers is key to getting the business functioning quickly once power is restored.

Clive Longbottom, service director at analyst Quocirca, advised firms to ensure their servers can shut down smoothly in the event of a power failure.

While an uninterruptible power supply may keep the electricity supply to a server running for long enough to allow the server to shut down correctly, users who require more IT resilience should consider a generator. However, fully automated generators that allow the servers to run in the event of a power failure are extremely expensive.

Longbottom said, "A lower cost option is to use the UPS to keep the servers going long enough to send your staff an SMS to alert them to come into the office and start up the generator."

In a small company, "it would be sufficient to buy a $500 (£320) UPS and a $400 generator", Longbottom said, rather than spend $40,000 on a state-of-the art automated generator.

But back-up generators may not be practical, particularly in the city, owing to safety and space constraints. One city IT director said, "It is all very well having a back-up generator on an industrial estate, but it would be a major problem in the inner cities."

He recommended that users carefully assess when they need their IT systems to be available. If it is important that a back-up window is maintained, users need to build these criteria into their business continuity plans.

Ostriches left in the dark >>

Read more on Managing IT and business issues