- Companies with data centers need to be prepared for disaster.
- Monitoring data from anywhere, communication, and technology are crucial.
- Here’s what the future of hazard and risk management looks like.
In critical facilities, planning for and monitoring natural disasters is now business as usual. Beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, Earth has experienced an 83% rise in the number of climate and extreme weather events since the 2000s.
Natural disasters and COVID-19 have raised the risk- and- hazard-management stakes for both globally distributed data centers and the teams that manage them 24/7.
But, artificial intelligence, machine learning, predictive analytics, the Internet of Things, and high-speed networks can reduce the stress on critical facilities teams making hazard and risk management decisions. Technology can provide real-time data feeds that originate on-premise or from a fixed orbit around the globe.
The earlier a critical facility team gains awareness of a looming disaster, the sooner the team can make vital adjustments such as moving operations, data, or people from one center to another. Here’s how promising technologies are transforming hazard and risk management practices for critical facilities around the globe.
Sensors, AI, and predictive analytics in data centers
IoT sensors are being deployed in facilities — both indoors and outdoors — to help operations teams assess real-time or future risk. Here are several ways they can help:
These sensors allow your team to monitor vital conditions such as airflow, humidity, and temperature. Thermal imaging can detect hot spots that may imperil functioning equipment.
Sensors can quickly notify your team when there’s been a water leak or, even worse, a flooded room. Motion detecting sensors, already in wide use, provide an extra layer of security protection particularly in “lights out” facilities such as cloud operations centers run without humans on site.
Tapping machine learning technologies that mine real-time streams of information, operations teams can use predictive analytics algorithms to make data-driven decisions about current and impending threats. Predictive analytics enable resource prioritization particularly when time is critical and resources are stretched thin.
These tools are widely in use by SecOps teams to help repel cyber threats against critical facilities. Analytics can help spot irregularities early and allow network managers to take action against hackers or other bad actors who seek to shut down critical facilities and other mission-critical computing sites at the industrial edge.
Communications and processing at the edge for critical facilities
When disaster strikes, maintaining communications, particularly with emergency response teams, is essential to sustaining business continuity. In critical facilities, it’s also important for machines to continue communicating and for important data to move where it is needed most.
In the event of a disaster, organizations may now choose to set up a data and communications center just outside a damaged critical facility. These microdata centers “pop up” in container-sized facilities literally at the edge of a critical facility. While the containers may lack all the comforts of a regular office, they include full monitoring and management capabilities to ensure continuous connectivity, supporting business requirements while delivering an appropriate customer experience.
In the event of cyberattacks or a natural disaster, the US Government’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) will manage risk for the nation’s critical communications infrastructure, invoking plans to keep terrestrial, satellite, and wireless transmission systems online. The plans encompass both information technology and emergency services facilities.
CISA coordinates collaboration between 11 federal government agencies and over 60 private sector communications and IT companies. CISA reports that these participants “routinely share critical communications information and advice in a trusted environment.”
Energy storage and management
Critical facilities have long sought to achieve some degree of redundancy so that one power failure doesn’t bring down the whole system. Here are solutions if energy sources fail:
These batteries are smaller and lighter, last longer, provide longer backup times, and can operate at higher temperatures than previous backup power sources. Known for strong total cost of ownership (TCO), lithium-ion batteries reduce cooling costs because they don’t spin off much heat. Price point was a barrier early, but not as much now.
Many critical facilities have established a hybrid data center model, enabling them to shift workloads across different facilities and multi-cloud environments. A hybrid network provides backup and shift loads around when outages occur. It’s not a permanent solution, due to latency issues, but it can serve as a bridge while outages are addressed. Today’s networks are often virtualized, boosting automation, redundancy, and resource efficiencies. Over the next several years many critical facilities will gravitate to 5G to meet the high-performance demands of edge processing, which will also make it easier to deploy hybrid networks.
Preparing for disaster
Natural disasters can derail robust facilities, even ones that make careful business recovery plans. Critical facilities are increasingly built to scale up or down depending upon changing business conditions and variable demand for services. This has the added benefit of enabling operations teams to shift workloads when the situation demands it.
The time is right to explore cutting-edge technologies that can harden critical facilities and help prepare operations teams to better manage risk and hazards now and in the future.