Standard Bank is to relocate its IT department from its central London headquarters to a £150,000-a-year secure datacentre in London's Docklands following concerns about the resilience of the power supplies to its head office.
The merchant bank plans to transport more than 130 servers to the new centre by the end of the year. It will spend more than £400,000 kitting out the centre and transporting servers and storage devices containing critical business data.
The bank began looking for ways to improve the security of its power supplies seven months ago after a London power cut left its IT systems out of action for four hours.
"We lost power at 6pm. Power was restored but it tripped a breaker in the building. No one could find the switch, so we had no power in communications for six hours," said Gary Diable, Standard Bank's technical services manager.
Although disruption was limited because the power cut happened outside business hours, it highlighted a growing risk to the business.
"Over the past 18 years we have not experienced many power failures, but in the past year alone we have experienced three," said Diable.
The bank decided that improving power supplies to its existing building was not an option. It also ruled out creating its own purpose-built IT centre because of the high cost. It looked at four service providers before choosing a centre run by Global Switch in Docklands, six miles from its head office.
The Docklands centre is fitted with two independent power supplies to guarantee electricity if one part of the national grid fails, a state-of-the-art uninterruptible power supply and diesel generators with 48 hours worth of fuel.
The centre will run alongside the bank's existing disaster recovery centre in North London, which provides emergency space for 120 of the bank's staff.
"The North London centre is just to keep us ticking over for a short period of time. We have a storage array down there, and most of our core servers are replicated there. But the machines are not to the same spec as our datacentre," said Diable.
Data links between the head office, the disaster recovery site and the main Docklands IT site, allow the bank access to its IT systems, even if one of the communications routes fails.
Companies plan for power failures
Businesses are increasingly taking into account the risk of electricity supply failure in their business continuity plans, according to disaster recovery specialists.
High-profile power failures in the US and London over the past 18 months have drawn attention to the potential risks of outages in parts of the national grid.
Julian King, commercial director at Global Switch, which operates custom-built datacentres in London, said the resilience of power supplies was assuming a higher priority for IT directors.
Research from disaster recovery specialist Sunguard found that power outages were responsible for 16% of usage at its disaster recovery centres, second only to hardware failures.