Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On: Earthquakes and Data Center Safety

Posted by Instor on Aug 1, 2017 5:31:00 AM

Somewhere every year, an 8.0 magnitude earthquake strikes. You’d like to hope the next big one won’t be anywhere near your data center, but better safe than sorry. Assessing your risk for damage from seismic activity is key. So is being proactive. Learn about the best ways to earthquake safe in your data center here.



Image: Flickr Creative Commons

Protecting Your Data Center from Earthquakes

For data centers located in earthquake prone areas, data center owners need to be practical about the threat. It’s not possible to eliminate all risk factors, but certain preventive measures can make a huge difference during a real catastrophe.

According to National Geographic, a magnitude 8 quake strikes somewhere every year. In 2015, the earthquake prone states Alaska, California, and Oklahoma experienced 1575, 130, and 888 tremors of various magnitudes. There were 1400-plus earth quakes of 5+ magnitude throughout the world. These numbers point to only one direction: you need to be prepared.

Of course, taking preventive measures is a mammoth task. Considering all the other responsibilities and deadlines, it might get put on the backburner. It’s important to start taking preventive steps from the planning stage of the data center. It will save you time and money. If your data center is already in operation, don’t sweat it too much. You can still implement the solutions. You just have to plan better.


Here are some measures you can take to protect your data center assets from an earthquake:

Follow FEMA Recommendations

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) understands catastrophe. It has come up with recommendations to mitigate earthquake risk factors. Even though the recommendations are meant for general household property damage prevention, this can serve as a great checklist for any data center.

To minimize the damage to your data center, you have to restrain, anchor, mount, bolt and latch. Even minor tremors can damage your servers. So, you need to use proper rack brackets and straps to ensure the servers are secure. You can bolt the rack cabinets to the concrete floor to keep them from toppling over.

Even though anchoring and bolting will protect servers and server cabinets in minor earthquakes, the vibration can still cause the equipment to malfunction. You should implement bolting and anchoring if you don’t have any budget to spare, but there are better solutions to deal with earthquake vibrations.

Use Base Isolation Technology

For data centers in seismic activity prone areas, base isolation technology can provide the comprehensive protection. In base isolation technology, server racks and cabinets are placed on ISO-Base platforms. The platforms create an isolation between the ground contact points and the server racks or cabinets. They absorb the shock during an earthquake. You can check out a video of how this is achieved here. Due to the shock absorption, your servers are better protected from the earthquake vibrations.

The base isolation platforms are designed for easy placement. There is no anchoring or drilling required. You can lift up your current racks and place the platforms underneath. It's relative simple to update your current data center with minimum time investment.

Data center managers have to deal with overwhelming production schedules and immediate physical and cyber security threats every day. It’s easy to deprioritize a threat like an earthquake that may or may not happen in the future. But you need to realize that it only takes a single earthquake to wreak havoc on your whole data center. Taking prevention measures like bolting can help you prevent against minor earthquakes. If the earthquake risks are higher in your area, then you need to use base isolation technology to get better protection. Taking action today can help you avoid a lot of headaches tomorrow.


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Topics: News, Seismic