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Datacentre operators ignoring risk of climate change-induced downtime, warns Uptime Institute

Uptime Institute data suggests operators are not taking disaster recovery precautions to protect their sites from extreme weather events

Datacentre operators are failing to factor the growing risk posed by climate change-induced freak weather events into their disaster recovery plans, Uptime Institute research suggests.

The datacentre think-tank claims many operators are not taking preventative steps to safeguard their facilities from being disrupted by heatwaves, water shortages, wildfires and floods, despite research suggesting such events are on the rise because of climate change.

“Climate change is making us rethink resiliency and operational uptime,” the organisation said in a whitepaper. “Now, more than ever, it is crucial to understand any potential vulnerabilities to make new and existing facilities better prepared for extreme weather events.

“During [storm and flooding] events, emergency systems can fail, IT staff availability can be compromised, and gaining physical access to the facility can be challenging.

“Having a robust and comprehensive disaster response and recovery plan in place is essential to be fully operational and serve end-users without service disruption.”

Given the large amount of water some datacentres use in their cooling apparatus, droughts could have a serious impact on some server farms’ ability to function and, if accompanied by higher temperatures, can exacerbate the situation, the whitepaper added.

But despite these warnings, a global Uptime Institute poll of 900 datacentre operators and IT professionals found that 90% do not think their organisation needs a flood-related disaster recovery plan, and 71% said they are not preparing at all for severe weather events.

Overall, its data suggests 45% of respondents are “ignoring the risk” of climate change-related disruptions to their datacentres, while 33% are re-evaluating their current setups to accommodate more reliable power and energy configurations.

Read more about datacentre uptime and availability

For organisations that do want to act, the institute said protecting their datacentres from extreme weather events will require taking action on several fronts, such as ensuring there are “adequate” numbers of staff on hand during an emergency to keep things ticking over.

“If you are staffed for an emergency event, considerations should be made for food and sleeping arrangements for any staff who may have to stay on-site during an extended shift,” the document said.

“Uptime Institute’s recommendation is to secure staff from other unaffected regions when possible to ensure you have operations personnel available that won’t be distracted by caring for their own families during the storm.”

Operators must also ensure their cooling systems are equipped to cope with extreme rises in outside temperatures, and that their spare fuel supplies are plentiful and safeguarded during major weather events.

“Operators must start designing power and cooling systems to cope with the long-term consequences of climate change,” the whitepaper said. “The Uptime Institute is increasingly finding that operators are not planning for increased heat and humidity, and they are putting in cooling systems that may not be adequate to meet future needs.”

Read more on Datacentre disaster recovery and security

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