Is Your Server A Survivor?

Heavy ice storms have knocked out power throughout most of Oklahoma and left me thinking about emergency preparedness. Not for humans, mind you, but for machines. After all, in the web business uptime is everything and a customer living in California isn’t going to care or even realize that the reason your online store is down is because of heavy flooding in a data center halfway across the country.

So… Quiz Time! How many natural disasters could your server survive before your customers could no longer access your website and/or services?

Most professional hosting services have backup generators and battery arrays that keep things humming along without so much as a hiccup during even the worst of blackouts. And in 99% of the case that’s all you need.

But what about the other 1% of the time?

For instance, generators need fuel. What happens if that fuel runs out and deep snows or heavy flooding prevents you from bringing in more fuel to start them back up? How many hours or days could you server go without supplies before finally falling silent? Do you even know? (I don’t. Such shame.)

And what about your server’s physical safety? A backup generator won’t do you any good if an earthquake drops a steel girder right on top of your hardware or if a tornado blows your whole data center off to Oz.

Now obviously there comes a point where it’s no longer worth spending a bunch of money just to make your server 0.0001% more robust. There’s nothing wrong with shrugging your shoulders and saying, “If a meteor crashes into my server I’ll build a new one from backup and my customers will just have to deal with the downtime. If anybody complains I’ll send them a picture of the crater.”

And that’s perfectly fine. Nobody has ever died because they had to wait an extra day to order a funny t-shirt they found online.

Of course… people HAVE died because they had to wait an extra day for military communication. And a thirty second outage of financial data can make all sorts of people wish they were dead. So there are some industries where downtime is never OK.

Which means there are people working in those industries who get paid to sit around talking about how they plan to recover from simultaneous lightning strikes in five different states during a zombie apocalypse.

I’m… feeling a little career envy here.