Data Center

The Great Solar Eclipse Reminds Us to Review Our Data Center Operations

On August 21st a total eclipse will pass across the USA for the first time since 1945, well before the word ‘data center’ was coined. Commentators are predicting huge traffic jams, clogged mobile phone networks, and even problems providing sufficient bathrooms for spectators traveling to the best places to view the eclipse! One area not to be overlooked is the data center.

The US Energy Information Administration (US EIA) has put out an alert that during the solar eclipse, sunlight needed to generate electricity at approximately 1900 utility-scale solar PV power plants across the country will be obscured. That’s about 50 percent of the peak capacity of these facilities as the eclipse impacts the US from east to west.

Solar Eclipse

Thanks to science and abundant media coverage, the majority of people will be sufficiently forewarned of the eclipse to not only prepare themselves for the event, but to even turn it into something special to celebrate. In the data center, unusual events are rarely the cause for celebration. And preparedness is a constant state – the default position, if you like, of the data center professional.

However, as a data center owner or operator, the much-hyped 2017 solar eclipse should remind you to review the plans you have in place to keep your data center disaster-proof, and prevent any unnecessary mishaps when any unforeseen critical events occur outside or inside your facility. Accordingly, here’s our three-step guide.

Step One: Assess
Early detection of problems will undoubtedly aid the prevention of catastrophic failure, ipso facto, assessment is key. Typically, these fall under eight categories: Hazards, Vulnerability, Risk, Disaster Recovery, Fire safety, Security & Alarms, Environment, and Power. A good way of preventing problems is to assess whether they’re ever likely to occur and take practical steps to avoid them.

Step Two: Plan

Of-course, the thing about disasters is that, unlike a solar eclipse, most simply can’t be predicted. So, you need a plan which comprises all measures that should be taken to prevent, prepare for, respond, mitigate and recover from a crisis.

  1. Preparation and Prevention: Any set of activities that prevent, reduce the chance of, or reduce damaging effects of, a crisis.
  2. Detection and Incident Classification: Actions taken to identify, assess and classify the severity of a crisis.
  3. Response and Mitigation: Actions taken to save lives, prevent further damage and reduce the effects of the crisis.
  4. Re-entry and Recovery: Actions taken to return a normal or an even safer situation following the crisis.

Step Three: Test the Plan

The final (if not obvious) step is to ensure your plan is going to work. The testing process itself must be properly planned and should be carried-out in an environment that realistically simulates authentic conditions, by the actual individuals who will undertake the activities in the event of an emergency. Make sure everyone knows their part!

We hope you get a chance to experience the positive side of the solar eclipse (be careful and take the correct precautions when viewing). And in the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about disaster-proofing your data center operations, please download Schneider Electric White Paper 5, A Practical Guide to Disaster Avoidance in Mission-Critical Facilities. Another great resource to help you respond safely and effectively to crisis is our White Paper 217, How to Prepare and Respond to Data Center Emergencies.


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