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Disasters Happen... Don't let the London Olympics be one for your business's Data Centre
Leading European Data Centre and Computer Room Consultancy, Migration Solutions has been considering the impact that the 2012 London Summer Olympics is likely to have on the data centre industry
As we all sit in anticipation, (well, the few of us that got tickets!), of the opening ceremony of the London Summer Olympics, we should not forget that as well as being great for Great Britain, it is certainly going to be a disaster for some. Most disasters can't be predicted, but this one can!
For whom will it be a disaster? There may be many answers, but for one certainty, let's consider the data centre. Most people, when asked, think of a disaster as a 'smoking hole in the ground' - a plane crash, a bomb, or maybe flood. Whilst these would undoubtedly be a disaster, there are other kinds of disaster that are not so well thought about.
It is reported that there are likely to be 23,700 security personnel involved in the Olympics - that's more people than a capacity crowd at the Oval to watch an England cricket game! Anyone who seriously believes that the security surrounding the Olympics isn't going to be disruptive is sadly very mistaken.
So what has this to do with data centres? Many data centres are in the Docklands area of London. This is very close to the main Olympic venues. Disasters are actually rarely the 'smoking hole in the ground' scenario, they are much more likely to happen because of 'softer' events. Take 7/7 for example - according to the London Chamber of Commerce, there were reports of offices running short of food and water because the exclusion zone meant people were forced to stay for 2 to 3 days.
Put this in the context of a data centre and there could be real trouble. Many systems rely on a daily, or even more frequent, backup. This may involve changing tapes or other media. What happens if you can't get to the data centre to change the tapes? What happens when that business critical server fails and you can't get to the data centre to fix it? What happens when the transport system can't cope and you can't get to the Docklands? All of these scenarios will probably happen, if not then something similar will.
Let us not underestimate this. Data centres are no longer for the techno nerds - they are at the heart of everyday life. Data centres are needed for our railways to run, for our hospitals to look after us, for our emergency services to attend to us, to enable us to do our shopping online, to let us download music to our MP3 player, to allow us to buy petrol ... almost everything we do requires a data centre.
Some businesses are already making plans. Some are going to encourage staff to work from home, but will this work? The problem is that this will put extra strain on broadband connections, possibly overloading them. The Internet could become over stretched causing connection failures or intolerably slow connections. And where do many of these Internet connections terminate? Yes, that's right - in the Docklands!
Come the 27th July, the Docklands is going to be an impossible place to get to. Transport systems will be overloaded, stretched to capacity, (if it holds up!), the security surrounding the games will be a nightmare, making any kind of movement difficult - and if anyone so much as drops a paper bag the security cordon is going to be huge! (Not that we condone dropping litter!)
Security for the Olympics is terribly important and it is quite right that it is being taken so seriously. Because of the security, travel anywhere in the East End of London will be incredibly difficult. That is just a bi-product of having a successful and safe Olympics. However, for a data centre operator in the Docklands, or worse, a business hosted in a data centre in the Docklands, the nightmare is just around the corner. There will be outages, there will be incidents that mean services are inaccessible or unavailable, but there is an answer ... don't put your critical services and data in a Docklands data centre!
Historically, many businesses have taken the approach that a London data centre is a safe place to put their servers or their data. Why? Some believe that it is easy to get to if they need to - that may not be the case this year! Some believe that they must have their applications and data in London for latency reasons - communications have moved on, there are no latency issues further afield! Some believe that a London based data centre is more secure - Why? It is a terrorist target, it is in the Environment Agencies 20 year flood plain, it has power problems, (contributed to by the reservation of power for the Olympics!), it is expensive, etc., etc.
Regional data centres, such as Sentry42 in Norwich, Norfolk hold the key to the future. There are no latency issues, it is only 2 hours from London yet far enough away not to be affected by it, it is not even in the 1,000 year flood plain, it is not a terrorist target, it is less expensive and it won't be affected by the Olympics. Difficult decision?
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