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What’s your disaster recovery plan?

Andrea Saffle

Andrea Saffle

Protecting your mission critical systems

When you think of a disaster do you think of hurricanes? Tornados? Floods? Something else? For a business that is not prepared, a disaster can be something as simple as a water leak in the wrong location or even a hard drive crash.  Stan Gwin, MegaGate Broadband vice president of network services, explains the benefits for businesses both small and large of utilizing an off site data center to protect these systems.

Most businesses these days have computer data that is so critical to their daily functions that a data loss will significantly impact or damage their business.  This isn’t limited to just large organizations like banks or hospitals.  A local clinic, an accounting firm, a print shop or really any business that relies on computer generated and saved data for the daily operations be hurt badly by a data loss.  Very large corporations can invest in building their own computer centers in house; but, for the average mid-size or smaller business, the cost to install the many redundant systems and meet adequate connectivity requirements are too cost prohibitive.  

There are many companies that spend tens of thousands of dollars on computer equipment, but then they back it up to a $150 hard drive – or worse yet a $20 flash device.  What happens if that device doesn’t work properly and their primary data systems fail? There are others that think they have a computer center, but it basically consists of a spare office holding all their servers. What happens when the power fails? What happens if there is a roof leak in that room?  What if the air conditioning system fails over night and heat build-up inside damages internal components in the servers? The whole system will fail.

To understand just what a data center can provide, you have to understand what a data center is.  According to Wikipedia, “a Data Center is a facility used to house computer systems and associated components, such as telecommunications and storage systems. It generally includes redundant or backup power supplies, redundant data communications connections, environmental controls (e.g., air conditioning, fire suppression) and security devices.”

There is a lot to consider when deciding the best option for your business, as to whether it is more cost effective to collocate equipment in a data center or to build your own data center as part of your central or corporate office. The cost and complexity of designing, building and operating a data center capable of delivering reliable and consistent power, connectivity, environmental protection and security continues to increase. The cost of power and up-to-date technologies are constantly changing. 

When considering data center locations, you should consider these five components: power; HVAC (cooling and air-conditioning); connectivity; facility; and, security. These five factors are the most important aspects of any data center. First, are there uninterrupted and redundant power supplies in case of power failure? Are the environmental controls adequate and redundant, and is a data center grade fire suppression system in place? Third, are there redundant forms of connectivity to communications in case of a severed cable? Fourth, is the facility itself built to withstand severe weather? And lastly, what are the security protections in place? 

To explain these components in detail, Gwin describes how they designed the MegaGate data center in Hattiesburg.  

“When we built the MegaGate data center, we built it on a telecom and telephone infrastructure,” said Gwin.  That means MegaGate provides power to its data center that is fully reliable. Commercial power, provided by the public utility, is backed up by redundant generators. Electricity entering the facility from either the commercial grid or the generators is converted to DC power and backed up by a 3,900-amp-hour flooded wet cell battery. Data center grade inverters then provide AC power to servers and other AC-powered equipment in the data center. This uninterrupted power supply provides reliable power for the equipment. 

All of that power produces heat. Heat removal is a vital component of proper data center management that can also be very cost prohibitive for businesses. MegaGate evacuates heat from its data center with an N+1 redundant HVAC configuration. Equipment aisles are designed with hot and cold areas, and air circulation is engineered so as to remove heat as efficiently as possible, providing a cool operating environment for mission critical platforms. 

Connectivity is another very important aspect of data center engineering.  Connections to the outside world have to be redundant and reliable.  There are many different ways of doing this.  Gwin explained that MegaGate’s’ data center provides connectivity to private networks, the Internet and the public switched telephone network over a synchronous optical network (SONET) ring. The ring provides both high bandwidth ethernet and traditional time division multiplexed services, allowing a high degree of flexibility in connectivity options.  Internet connectivity is provided via a blended tier one Internet backbone that traverses the fiber optic ring and is carried to one of multiple tier one Internet connection points that are located in geographically diverse areas. 

Some companies have centrally located data systems with a need for connectivity that requires large amounts of bandwidth – from multiple bonded T1’s up to fiber-based connectivity.  Needs like this exist when a business has to transmit large files on a regular basis or needs to provide access to a central repository of some sort from multiple locations through a virtual private network, wide area network or other architecture.  Such connectivity can be cost prohibitive for a company.  In these cases, locating these central data systems in a data center provides more cost effective access to bandwidth.

A secure location and facility is also something that has to be considered when you are looking to protect mission critical systems.   “We located our facility just outside of Hattiesburg, Miss., in a remote and secure environment, well away from areas prone to natural disasters like earthquakes, tidal surges and flood plains. The facility is completely contained within a nine-foot security fence,” said Gwin.  However, it is not just the security of the structure you need to consider. Everyone who has access to the facility must meet certain security requirements, as well.  All individuals given access to the facility must undergo a thorough background check. After satisfactorily completing the background check, they are issued a numbered key fob and security code with which to enter the facility. All external and locked internal entrances and passageways are secured via a key fob and proximity reader latching system.  Each key fob identification number is maintained in a data base along with a photo identification of the registered user.  Closed circuit television cameras monitor all activity inside and outside the facility, a recording is made, and a history of these recordings is kept for future reference. An alarm system monitors for unauthorized intrusion and/or movement in the facility and notifies authorities automatically in the unlikely event of a security breach.

 All systems at the data center are monitored 24/7/365 by a qualified and competent engineering and technical staff.

“Any company looking to protect its investment should strongly consider giving us a call,” said Gwin. “Our data center was fully tested by Hurricane Katrina. When the power grid was destroyed, we never lost power. We are fully scalable to fit any size need, be it a rack or an entire room, and if you feel your need is even smaller than a rack, call us anyway.  We also have partners in our data center that provide entry-level, high-quality data protection solutions for individuals and businesses with smaller data needs.  In addition to the facility, MegaGate offers outstanding customer support.  Our customers continually tell us that they just like working with us.” added Gwin.


Andrea Saffle works with MegaGate Broadband.


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