Tips to Help You Through Juno, the East Coast’s Biggest Blizzard in Years

Z alertAs anyone in the Northeastern US can tell you, there is only one topic on everyone’s mind today. CNN calls Juno “historic”, The New York Times refers to the blizzard approaching, carrying with it two to three feet of snow, as “vast”. Massachusetts Governor Baker declared a state of emergency and an actual travel ban, as opposed to an advisory. Mayor Walsh of Boston announced that city schools will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, “took the unusual step of ordering all drivers off the streets by 11 p.m. on Monday, a ban that he said covered ‘anything that has to do with leisure or convenience’,” according to the New York Times.

So, what are the dangers to a data center during a blizzard? How can these dangers be mitigated in the hours leading to the storm?

According to PSE&G, “While snow by itself doesn’t normally pose a serious problem, heavy snow and strong winds can increase the possibility of downed wires and power outages.” The company’s blizzard handbook also warns that the storm conditions make it difficult for their employees to fix downed lines and outages. This is where danger to employees and data  centers becomes acute — preparing for what can be hours or days of power outages.

Inside the data center, power outages are just one danger of severe cold weather. According to this article on datacenterknowledge.com, “Severe cold can cause a data center to operate outside of its specific design perimeters, which adds stress to the system. In addition, if the temperature gets too cold, it becomes difficult to heat any air taken in from the outside. Beyond this, freeze can set in on outdoor equipment, including drain lines, fuel systems that don’t have the appropriate cold-weather additives, HVAC heating coils, cooling towers and humidification units. Frozen HVAC units can begin to leak water, while snow and frost can clog intake vents. If this occurs, it can be difficult for air to circulate and the entire system can shut down.” A regular maintenance schedule is critical to solving these issues — but one simple step you can take is to make sure that you have a special drain for the overflow of water that may leak as the frozen units thaw after the storm.

We also called one of the many IT directors using our disaster recovery software to ask how they prepare for an impending storm of this caliber. According to one IT Director we interviewed, “The safety of our employees is our top priority, so if someone is more comfortable working from home, we want to make sure they are fully enabled. Regarding the data center itself, we are providing updated processes for Citrix and VPN to help keep everyone productive AND safe.”

Other Zerto customers fail-over their data so that employees can continue working (remotely) during a storm. In 2012, as Hurricane Sandy approached the East coast, Zerto customer Affigent moved its primary private cloud platform from Reston, VA, which was predicted to be in harm’s way, to a data center in Chicago, IL. Actual failover to the Chicago site was performed during lunchtime as the storm approached. Servers were shutdown cleanly, latest changes were replicated and then servers were restarted in the DR site. It took 35 minutes to move and another 20 minutes to fully test all applications that were failed over to the Chicago site. Affigent continued to fully operate without any data loss in the secondary data center until the storm passed. Failover does not need to be pre-planned — it can be done, as in the Affigent case — just hours before the storm hits.

Another tip? Communication plans. One of the key factors that all DR specialists rely on during a storm is communication. According to the mass.gov website: “Pay close attention to storm warnings, alerts and updates, and have a plan in place to keep employees informed. Evaluate, update and review your emergency plan, including evacuation routes and communication to employees.”

How can we help? If you are a Zerto customer and have concerns at any time during the storm, our support team is available 24/7. You can find them at http://www.zerto.com/support-services/

For those of you in the Northeast, stay safe and warm!

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