A couple of months ago, one of Rackspace’s data centers ran into trouble when a truck crashed into a power transformer and caused a major power outage. In general, power outages are a frequent cause of data center trouble and other service interruptions. Even if safeguards are in place, there is always a chance that something will not work the way it is supposed to, like for example when the 365 Main backup generators wouldn’t start and left the likes of Technorati, Craigslist and LiveJournal offline for hours.
We decided to search in the news to find some of the various causes for power and network outages, and came back with some rather unusual results. Listed here are some of the ones we found from just the last week. It really seems like almost anything can happen, and does. Murphy’s Law in action?
Electrocuted raccoon (December 31)
What can we say? Poor little animal, poor 8,200 people without power.
A representative of the power company commented on the fried fur ball: “He probably was trying to find a warm spot as animals frequently do and it didn’t work out too well.”
No, it certainly didn’t…
Yet another truck driver (January 2)
Truck drivers everywhere seem to have their sights set on those power poles. This one took down four poles and a power transformer, blacking out an entire neighborhood.
Cable thieves (December 31)
Verizon customers were left without service when 500 feet of cable was dug up and stolen by copper thieves.
Random gunfire (January 1)
Fiber optics lines were knocked out by gunfire, causing Comcast subscribers in Memphis to lose cable service. A Comcast representative said that he believed that the shots may have been fired to celebrate the new year. Gun control, anyone…?
Dropped cell phone, kind of (December 27)
A man dropped his cell phone, tried to find it, and crashed into one of the main electrical feeder lines of a town in Montana. Don’t dial and drive…
And some less spectacular but just as effective reasons for outages
- An underground electrical fire (December 27)
- Swirling snow in an electrical meter box (December 26)
- A power surge caused a lightning arrestor (ironically there to prevent surges) to explode, which cut power to an entire downtown area. (December 25)
- Wind (January 1)
- And the plain mysterious (December 25)
Backup power and redundant internet connections to the rescue
It may not be too bad for regular consumers to be forced offline for a few hours, but for a company, or worse, a data center, it can be a major head ache.
To avoid this, make sure you have backup power (at least for critical equipment), and when it comes to internet access: if you run anything mission critical, make sure you have redundant internet connections.
Of course, if you run into something like the US Northeast Blackout of 2003, you may be in deep trouble no matter how prepared you are…
The outages we listed above just scrape the surface. A search in Google would show you much, much more.